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A Girl On a Mission

Today I have a very special story to tell.

I received a request for time off from one of my Dixon staff employees, however I was unsure of whether I could approve during a period of substantial growth for the company. So I decided to inquire on the reason for such a lengthy vacation?… or so I thought.

Yeah, vacation was the wrong choice of words. A “Divine Mission” is more of what she was headed towards.  Webster’s dictionary defines a divine mission as a type of spiritual mission. It usually requires traveling, but its main focus is to carry out what is believed to be matters set forth by God.

Some of us are designed and put on this earth to be CEO’s, some are called to be athletes, some have callings to be teachers (a special recognition to ALL educators), and others are specifically designed to reach and help people. I’m so proud of Dixon’s Marketing Coordinator, Juldy Hernandez.  She used her vacation time in order to help lives and inspire others.

From the day she was hired, she took off running on her mission within our company. I don’t think I even gave her permission, as she just kind of does it. I am giggling as I write this, because when she reads it, she will agree it is true! LOL. Not only did I find it rare to come into contact with an individual with an incredible passion to learn, but I was also surprised in the purity of her heart. I found it quite special to see what she was doing in our company. I believe she was put on our path to help individuals we come in contact with on an everyday basis. This was in the office, in the classroom, in the community, and believe it or not all the way in Haiti!

Juldy took charge of our Corporate Backpack Donation Program that has so far allowed us to distribute over 20,000 backpacks to children in less fortunate communities. She helped implement this very important community program with extraordinary personal sacrifice. She knew what a difference it could make touching students’ lives in areas that are less fortunate, and she worked unselfishly with many corporations throughout the country to bring this very special program to educators in a real heartfelt, passionate, and sincere way. Juldy also goes out into our local community schools to teach our educators on Ticonderoga Writing and Prang Art supplies. She also handles much of the marketing responsibilities in our Corporate Headquarters in Lake Mary, FL. I knew with her willingness to learn, she would take the necessary steps to do her best at whatever was thrown her way.

What I didn’t know, was what she had strategically planned for her 2015 personal growth project.  In May of this year, Juldy traveled to serve and strengthen the people of Haiti. She supported gospel-based economic & community development programs declaring the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. She was also involved with building a missionary home, installing solar energy panels, teaching sustainable economic development, built clean water irrigation systems, and help start up a local farm.  All in all, a very labor intensive week!  While there, she even found time one day to work in a Pediatrics clinic.  I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired and exhausted at the same time! LOL

Juldy had “NO IDEA” she inspired me. Today, I wanted to surprise her by writing a CEO Blog about her experience in Haiti, as a tribute to her dedication to the global community.  I wanted to share Juldy’ s journey with all my educators, customers, and followers. She ventured out from the comforts of her home, children, and job to extend a helping hand to a country in need.

As CEO of a 220 year old corporation like Dixon Ticonderoga Company, I can sincerely say I am blessed to have employees making a difference in the company, community, and in their personal lives. For this I am one proud pencil pusher.

Thank you all for being part of my Dixon Team! #pencilpushers #onamission

 

Giving Back with SunTrust

I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity to act on my vision of giving back to the community and being able to help future generations. When I am able to come together with other leaders in the community to ensure this vision comes into fruition, I am truly overjoyed.

Recently, SunTrust generously donated $6,000 to A Gift for Teaching, a Kids In Need Foundation affiliate that provides free school supplies to teachers in the Central Florida area. That money will go towards Dixon Ticonderoga Company backpacks filled with high quality Ticonderoga writing supplies and Prang art supplies for students in Osceola, Orange, and Seminole Counties in Florida. In addition, Dixon also donated a pallet of Prang art supplies. I was delighted to join SunTrust Florida Division President David Fuller in presenting this donation at A Gift For Teaching and personally see the appreciation of teachers who have already identified many students in need.

SunTrust and Dixon Ticonderoga Company are passionate believers that education is the most important factor to guarantee a brighter future. We are happy to help A Gift for Teaching in their mission to improve public education by providing resources and surplus materials free to teachers for their students in need.

 

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Bowling for Junior Achievement

Over seventy members of the Dixon family recently got together and challenged one another to participate in a fundraising Bowl-A-Thon. The cause is one near and dear to my heart:  Junior Achievement.  I join the massive alumni of Junior Achievement members who believe that the experience of being in Junior Achievement positively impacted my future.  And because of our gutter balls and strikes, we donated just under $2,000 to Junior Achievement – enough to ensure 72 students can participate in JA next year.

When I think back on the high school programs that most influenced me, Junior Achievement tops the list.  I had some of the greatest and most impactful moments in my life thanks to participating in Junior Achievement.  I learned from leaders of my community and value the time they gave to mentor me and this is why I am thankful for the privilege to participate in Junior Achievement today.

The mission of Junior Achievement is timely and significant:  To inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.  Hopefully, along the way, one of them will also make time to help me improve my bowling score!

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Me with Team EBIDTA.

 

Top Four School Supplies for Students with Special Needs

Hello everyone, my name is Shelley Mathews and I am the Director of Education Sales at Dixon Ticonderoga Company.  The start of the new school year is an exciting and nervous time for all students. This is especially true for Students with Special Needs and their search for quality school supplies.

Shelley Mathews

Here at Dixon, we make it easy for students with special needs to use basic writing tools that are designed to help learn important skills and express creativity.  I’ve compiled a list of the Top Four School Supplies for Special Needs Students. While all of these supplies are perfect for anyone to use (teachers love our triangular shape pencils since they do not roll off the desk), each has characteristics that are ideal for those with special education needs.

  1. Tri-Write My First Ticonderoga or Tri-Write Laddie Pencils—these pencils are perfect for learning to write. Larger than traditional pencils, the Tri-Writes prevent grip slipping; the pencils’ triangular shape allows for a more natural grip. These characteristics create less frustration for students, parents and teachers! Best of all, as students progress, they can transition from the larger-sized My First Ticonderoga, to the intermediate-sized Laddie Tri-Write, and finally to the Tri-Conderoga when they feel ready for a standard-sized pencil that maintains the familiar and comfortable triangular shape.
  2. Prang Triangular Shaped Colored Pencils—like the Tri-Write pencils, these triangular-shaped colored pencils make learning and creative expression more enjoyable by promoting a more natural grip. The larger size (5.5mm compared to 3.3 mm) also allows for less grip slip as students exercise their imaginations.
  3. Prang Washable Markers—these markers have many qualities that are perfect for students with special needs. They have an extended cap-off life so when students (or adults) forget to put the cap back on, the markers don’t dry out immediately. The caps are white, and the barrels of the marker indicate the color, which may prevent meltdowns due to the wrong cap having been put on earlier. Lastly, the tips (or nibs) are made of finely woven fibers, which retain its shape when a student presses down really hard. You can actually see the tip regain its shape!
  4. Prang Color Wands– we have been told by Special Need teachers that our Color Wands are perfect for students with tactile challenges.  The Prang Color Wands have a richly vibrant color and smooth-as-silk applicability.  They are water-soluble so stains wash off easily.  The crayons are also encased in a plastic holder that allow for no messy hands. Students can apply a damp paint brush to the Color Wand drawing and create a great watercolor effect.

Giving Back to Those in Need for the New School Year

Do you know how many children in your city live in poverty?  Here in the USA, there are more than 16.4 million children living below the poverty line.  That’s one out of five American children.  But in the Parramore area of Orlando, nearly three out of four children live in poverty.  Both numbers are unacceptable.

When I think of these children, I think of how important it is not just to be a leader in our industry but also a leader in our community.

For the second year in a row, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with different Orlando-based organizations to give backpacks filled with school supplies to disadvantaged children.  This year, Dixon Ticonderoga Company partnered with the Orlando Magic NBA Basketball team, AMWAY and Orlando City Soccer to donate over 1,100 backpacks to those children in the Parramore area of Orlando. In addition to receiving backpacks filled with Ticonderoga writing and Prang art supplies, they also were able to participate in activities such as an arts and crafts table and they received popcorn and drinks courtesy of Dixon.

Working with these outstanding organizations and the Kids In Need Foundation, it is my goal that every disadvantaged child has the supplies that they need to be successful for their upcoming school year. If you would like to learn more about how to show your dedication to your community by giving backpacks to needy children, please email teachersrock@dixonusa.com. It’s never too late.

 

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Kids In Need Foundation National Summit

Earlier this summer, we had a great time with the folks at the Kids In Need Foundation National Summit. I’ve had the honor of being the event keynote speaker for a couple of years in a row, and it’s always one of my most memorable experiences of the year.

I’m extremely proud of our partnership with the Kids In Need Foundation, which offers teachers free school supplies at their “stores”. It has been our long-time goal to donate enough pencils to span across the United States if laid end to end.  In honor of the Summit this week, I wanted to give you an update on this ambitious goal.

  • Total # of Dollars Donated: $5,331,777.50
  • Total # of Pencils Donated: 17,456,728
    • Total # of Inches: 129,959,411
    • Total # of Feet: 10,829,951
    • Total # of Miles: 2,051

The distance from Augusta, Maine to Los Angeles, California, is about 3,200 miles. That means we’re over halfway to our goal!

 

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The Dixon Team in Las Vegas for the Kids In Need National Summit.

Getting Paid in Ticonderoga Pencils

Would you be excited to receive compensation in Ticonderogas?

I recently read a great article on Slate about some students that want to be paid wages in Ticonderoga pencils! According to the article, students in Ipswich, Massachusetts spent 330 minutes trying out a new standardized test that they did not volunteer for. As a result, two-sixth grade classes sent a letter to U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan demanding that he or major testing companies compensate them for their time. They noted that the time they put in, if compensated at minimum wage, would equate to 8,689 Ticonderoga pencils.

Children often make demands of adults that are pretty ridiculous, but in this instance, I believe the students have a pretty good point. What is the harm in these students wanting great school supplies in exchange for the hard work they have put in? I definitely have to applaud them on their choice in pencils. Obviously, these students are pretty smart!

Good luck, kids. I’m rooting for you and will be excited to hear what they say.

Father’s Day Fun

I take great pride in my role as CEO at Dixon Ticonderoga Company, but there’s another role that I take even greater pride in…being a father to my daughter. She is the light of my world, and everything that I do is for her.

The best thing about having a young daughter is she teaches me something new every day. When thinking about the new products I would like to add to our lineup of Prang Art Supplies, I constantly use her as my inspiration. She is the perfect product tester, and you better believe she is brutally honest with her critiques!

With Father’s Day just a couple of days away, I already have the perfect fun and inexpensive activity planned for us to do together. I’ll grab our Prang Markers, print off this fun mustache craft, and spend some quality time with my favorite little girl. Go to DixonUSA.com to find more crafts for you and your kids to work on together on Father’s Day or any other day.

Father’s Day isn’t just for fathers. It’s also for the kids, the moms, the grandparents, the surrogate parents, the foster parents, and the role models. The list goes on and on! Happy Father’s Day to you and all the people dear to you!

Thoughts on Louis Prang

How often does your child come home from school with a new masterpiece? As most parents do, we recognize the creativity of our young Picasso and go about our day as usual.

It’s true, we’re all busy. There is much work to be done and who really has the time to consider the makings of each and every product our children use. But, what if we took the time to learn more about the products, the craftsmanship and the history behind our beloved products?

As the CEO of Dixon Ticonderoga Company, I’m extremely proud of our rich heritage. We’re one of America’s oldest corporations, and can trace our roots back to the American Revolution. However, I’m equally proud of the history of our Prang brand, which is also over 100 years old.

Louis Prang was an American immigrant who truly believed that every child deserved an art education in order to develop their imaginations and freedom of expression. Among his other accomplishments, he was America’s first art educator, and he even invented the Artist’s Color Wheel.

Inspired by the need to teach his young daughter art, he developed non-toxic watercolors, which we continue to produce today with the same care and quality that he intended for his young daughter. Louis Prang’s name is also listed on the Statue of Liberty as an important immigrant who made significant contributions to the United States.

So, the next time my daughter comes home with a refrigerator-worthy piece of art, or when I get a moment to relish in the fact that she has picked up a package of Prang Watercolors, I will say a quick thank you to Louis Prang for creating something that is so important to her, and to me.

Our Popular Prang Watercolors

Our Popular Prang Watercolors

The Importance of Mentorship

I can remember the day perfectly. The day my mentor and college professor, Dr. Barry Duvall, told me to apply up for his program for exceptional business students. When I replied that I didn’t think I would get in, he said, “Tim, who runs the program? I do. Now, are you going to do what I told you or not?” Needless to say, I did apply for the program and got in.

Throughout our adolescent and college years, we meet a variety of teachers that lead us, guide us and sometimes impact us in a way that challenges the person we are and makes us see something even greater. Dr. Duvall did that for me.  In one short conversation he changed the rest of my life.

As a small symbol of gratitude, I have decided to donate $1,500 to his school for a research grant in his honor. Dr. Duvall plans to use this grant to help fund the research where as he will be using our Prang Art Markers to recycle and turn into mixed oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel. I’m very excited to contribute to such a wonderful product life cycle cause such as the important work Dr. Duvall is doing in our society.

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Me with Dr. Duvall

I completed my Bachelor’s Degree then went on to get two Masters degrees and eventually became CEO of a company that is over 219 years old. I can’t imagine where I would be now without Dr. Duvall.  I have had the opportunity to see him recently, and it was a great opportunity to renew my friendship with a man that continues to inspire me each and every day. Thank you Dr. Duvall for being such a terrific mentor in my life in my early development years!

 

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