“Money is like manure. It is not worth a thing unless you spread it around.”
Mary Jeanne Klenow, a resident of Midland, Michigan, says this line from the musical “Hello Dolly!” guides her approach to charitable giving.
Mary Jeanne is a lifelong educator with an interest in helping others. It’s a desire she saw in her grandfather, who owned a local grocery store and was one of the first residents of East Tawas. He helped the town grow out of its infancy, Mary Jeanne says.
After three years in Europe teaching dependents of U.S. servicemembers, Mary Jeanne settled down in Midland.
“This community has parents who value education, and it showed in the students I taught,” she says. While employed as a first grade teacher, she earned a master’s degree in the teaching of reading. When the Midland school district needed someone to coordinate its reading program, she was the obvious choice. Mary Jeanne understood the long-term impact she could have on the entire school district by educating the educators.
Right-to-work has been a key issue for the Mackinac Center from its inception, and Mary Jeanne appreciates the Center’s support for teachers who find themselves at odds with a union. When she started teaching in Midland, there was no union. But the Michigan Education Association moved in, and Mary Jeanne and a small number of her co-workers refused to be forced into joining. This tiny minority of educators consented to having their dues put into escrow instead of the union coffers. She has no idea what happened to that money and is still interested in discovering where it went.
The Mackinac Center is one vessel she uses to ensure her charity is being used wisely. “I’m impressed by the many staff members I’ve met,” she says. “They all feel the same way. Mackinac fights for the little guy.” For Mary Jeanne, it all comes down to educating children and adults to make the best of themselves and their community.