When crime or tragedy strikes, Muskoka Victim Services is there to provide immediate assistance and support, and now locals have the chance to give support back to the organization through the Smile Cookie campaign in Gravenhurst.
Ashley Hrinkanic, operator of the two Gravenhurst Tim Hortons locations, said she chose Muskoka Victim Services as the recipient for this year’s fundraising after seeing the need for their services rise throughout the pandemic. Many people may not know how much work Muskoka Victim Services does to support people in crisis, she said, whether it’s victims of fires, domestic violence or other hardships. Gravenhurst Tim Hortons has supported other causes like the Salvation Army and Ryde Community Co-op in past years, and Hrinkanic said it’s all part of giving back to their “small but tight community.”
“You never know when you’re going to need support from these different organizations within your community,” Hrinkanic said. “It’s very important that we support each other, especially [when] it’s an organization such as Muskoka Victim Services where they help those who are in a crisis need.”
The Smile Cookie initiative, which runs from Sept. 13 to 19, is a great way for Gravenhurst Tim Hortons to give back the community that supports them, she said, and it’s also a great way for community members to support each other.
“It’s as simple as buying a cookie,” Hrinkanic said. “You can come through our drive thru and still feel safe. You can come into all of our locations and still feel safe with all of our cleaning and our proper PPE.”
Eva Zachary, executive director of Muskoka Victim Services, said locals can be confident that every dollar they spend on Smile Cookies will go toward supporting the clients that they serve. Though the organization receives some funding through the Government of Ontario, they rely heavily on donations to cover their client care expenses.
“As a transfer payment agency through the Ministry of the Attorney General, we have our base operational funding covered, but any other additional client expenses, anything that we do to support clients in the community in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, we take that from donation dollars,” Zachary said. “Every penny counts, every effort counts and we appreciate our community for supporting us.”
The volume and complexity of their calls has increased during the pandemic, she said, which means they’re working with clients for a longer period of time before they can connect them with long-term supports. Muskoka Victim Services works with community partners from the crisis intervention phase to the recovery phase of an incident, but even with their help, donations make a big difference in covering the urgent needs of clients.
“We pool resources with them, but sometimes when it’s two o’clock in the morning and we need to put someone in a hotel, or let’s use a house fire as an example and they have walked out with just the clothes on their back, we will get the basic essentials,” Zachary said. “We’ll make sure that they get clothing and they get food and they get the basic needs that they need to carry them over the next few days until we pull in the longer [term] supports.”
Zachary said the team at Muskoka Victim Services is honoured that the Gravenhurst Tim Hortons chose them for one of their biggest campaigns of the year, and she wants members of the community to know that there’s no time limit on seeking support.
“We support when crime or tragedy strikes, but sometimes people are not comfortable to reach out and ask for support in those first few days,” she said. “There is no expiry date, there is no expiry time. If in a few months, days, weeks, even years later after a situation, if someone doesn’t know where to turn for support, our door is open.”
To support Muskoka Victim Services through the Smile Cookie campaign, visit the Gravenhurst Tim Hortons locations at 150 Talisman Drive and 2329 Highway 11 South from Sept. 13 to 19.