When Tim Hortons decided to move their Smile Cookies campaign from September to May on short notice, the Ashcroft and District Lions Club — which has partnered with Timmies five times in the last six years to raise funds for local causes — rose to the challenge.
That’s why from now until the campaign ends on May 7, you will find Lions Club volunteers at the Tim Hortons at the Esso Travel Centre near Ashcroft selling the cookies, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Sue Peters, the club’s administrator, says they found out at the end of March that the date was changing this year.
“Tim Hortons decided there was too much going on in September, because they have other promotions they’re doing then, so they wanted to separate things. But because we’ve done it so often we have a pretty good system in place, so we were able to get up and running and organized without too much headache.”
The cookies have increased in price to $1.50 each this year, but Peters says that 100 per cent of the funds raised still go to the local organization running the fundraiser, and stay in the community.
In the past, the Ashcroft and District Lions Club has chosen specific people or organizations to benefit each year, including minor sports clubs, the Honour Ranch, The Equality Project, the Christmas Hamper program, and the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society. In 2019 the funds raised went to provide local student Robert Belin with hearing aids, and so many people bought cookies and donated that there were funds left over to give to the local Sea Cadets Corps, of which Belin was a member, and to set aside for a future set of hearing aids when they are needed.
In all, the campaigns have raised nearly $30,000, with the Lions Club donating funds of their own. For this sixth year of partnering, Peters says that the club has decided to use the money raised for its own community projects account, noting that nearly three years of COVID-19 meant that the club found it difficult to fundraise.
“We have a very extensive list of local non-profits, minor sports organizations, and food projects that we support, so the money will go towards those things. There was a lack of fundraising activities during COVID, so we had to be selective about who we could help. We needed money to replenish the account and help more people, so this will get us back to a more usual footing so we can do even more than we’re doing now.”
Letters were delivered to local businesses on May 2, so they can order cookies in advance if they have a large order. “We’d like 24 hours’ notice for large orders so Tim Hortons can keep up,” Peters explains. The bulk order form can also be found on the Ashcroft and District Lions Club Facebook page.
How large are some of the orders? Peters says that in the past, many local businesses have ordered up to 30 dozen cookies each, then handed them out to employees or delivered then to the Ashcroft ambulance station. “The support has been tremendous. People had to take the cookies out in carts.”
And it’s not just businesses that buy in bulk; on one memorable occasion a traveller passing through the area stopped at the Travel Centre, purchased several dozen cookies, and then asked the Lions Club volunteers to give them to anyone who wanted them, as he just wanted to donate to a good cause.
Peters says that while that’s one way to donate, you don’t have to purchase cookies: volunteers will gratefully accept cash donations.
The club members will barely be able to catch their breath before their next event, the Mother’s Day pancake breakfast at Desert Hills Ranch in Ashcroft starting at 9 a.m. on May 14. On June 4 they will be providing food and snacks for the participants in this year’s Skip’s Run, a fun 2.5km, 5km, or 10km walk, run, or roll that the Ashcroft and District Lions have held every year since 2011 in honour of longtime Lion Skip Stuart, who passed away in 2010.
On June 10 the Lions trailer will be at the Graffiti Days Show and Shine in Cache Creek starting at 11:30 a.m., serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, and more. Peters says they’re planning on having extra food on hand this year, after selling out last year because of the huge demand.
Then, on June 15, the Lions will have their trailer at the Campbell Hill Dragstrip for the first event in this year’s B.C. Dragit Challenge, which is holding races between Cache Creek and Prince George. They’ll be providing a pancake breakfast as well as hamburgers, and will be back at the dragstrip on June 19 for the final race in the event. After that, Peters says, they’ll be taking a hiatus over the summer unless something comes up.
“We’re 100 per cent volunteers, and 100 per cent of the money raised in the community has to benefit the community,” she says. “None of it goes to administration; all admin costs are covered by the members. We support people and organisations from Clinton to Spences Bridge and everywhere in between, and we’re so grateful for the community support we’ve received.”