Donation from Mike Johnson’s Toyota will feed 7,500 Hickory students

By: 
Beverly Snowden
Staff Writer

Being a good neighbor is one positive that has surfaced since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.

Neighbors checking in on neighbors, sharing of home supplies such as toilet paper, donations of medical needs to area hospitals, and kind gestures including mowing lawns and delivery of groceries -- have helped to bring forth a sense of community caring.

But it’s the feeding of the children that weighs the heaviest on the minds of educators from across the nation. For Hickory Public Schools (HPS), like other school districts, there’s the worry of unexpected costs, overwhelming needs, scheduling of deliveries, and the competition for food orders.

Historically, when schools are closed for holidays and breaks, meals are not served to students. However, current times are very different. Several parents have lost their wages and the pantry shelves in homes are running lean. During this spring break, the HPS team chose to distribute meals—as many as possible.

When news was announced of the NC Governor’s closing of public schools, local business owner, Mike Johnson, first thought of the children. “Having a good meal should be the right of every American, of every child,” said Johnson.

“Our schools have helped to feed breakfast and lunch to countless children with food insecurities, and now with the closing of schools, there’s an added pressure for families to find funds for meals,” said Johnson. “This certainly is not the fault of the children that our schools are closed—so we wanted to help.”

As owner of Mike Johnson’s Hickory Toyota in Hickory, NC, Johnson has partnered with Hickory Public Schools since he moved to the area with his family more than 20 years ago. But this time, his gift takes a different turn—one that directly helps in the provision of meals to the HPS students.

With a donation this week of $5,000 from Mike Johnson’s Hickory Toyota to the Child Nutrition Department of Hickory Public Schools, the coverage of thousands of meals will assist the district during this challenging time. In fact, the donation covers the cost of 7,500 student meals.

“You can never give too much when it’s for the right thing!” said Johnson. “I hope other business owners can find it within their business to help those in need. Thanks to Hickory Public Schools for allowing us the opportunity to help the students,” said Johnson.

According to Kristen Bealler, HPS child nutrition director, everyone is extremely grateful for this generous gift to help feed the children. “We cannot thank Mr. Johnson enough. This is the perfect gift right now to our school district—placing the welfare of the children as a top priority. The love and support for this amazing cause is awe-inspiring, and we are sincerely thankful,” said Bealler.    

“Mr. Johnson is a true ‘CHAMPION’ of public education” said HPS Superintendent, Dr. Robbie Adell.  “His generosity will help feed hundreds of children in our community.  This incredibly excellent gift is greatly appreciated. Hickory Public Schools is blessed to have someone who is so thoughtful as Mr. Johnson.” 

Mike Johnson, and his wife, Carman, have been married for 38 years and they are the parents of four grown sons and four grandchildren. Their sons all graduated from Hickory High School.

Following eleven moves for his career in the automobile industry, Mike Johnson finally settled down in Hickory in 1999, where he soon purchased the Toyota dealership. Mike Johnson’s Hickory Toyota has served as an actively engaged business in the community, with contributions to multiple causes while consistently partnering with Hickory Public Schools.

“We believe that it is the responsibility of all businesses to do what you can to give back, especially during times of need,” said Johnson. “It’s important to be a good neighbor.”

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