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Cookies sales record tastes sweet for local charities helping the vulnerable

Niagara Falls residents weren’t just satisfying their own sweet tooth when they purchased Smile Cookies last month and bit into the chocolate chip cookies: they were also taking a bite out of hunger in the city.


That’s because by supporting the annual Smile Cookie campaign that took place across the country, they were directly supporting two agencies that help some of the city’s most vulnerable people to be able to have enough healthy food to eat.


At the Tim Hortons restaurant on Thorold Stone Road on Tuesday, local Tim Hortons owners who collectively choose a couple of charities to benefit from the local Smile Cookie sales each year were on hand to split $86,500 between this year’s recipients: Project SHARE, and the GROW Community Food Literacy Centre.


The amount raised was the most ever from the local Smile Cookie campaign, which also set a national record of $19.7 million raised for charities.


The local money will help Project SHARE keep its emergency food bank stocked at a time when demand keeps setting new record levels, as well as the agency’s homelessness prevention programs, as well as GROW, which operates a weekly Saturday market in downtown Niagara Falls where low-income people can purchase heavily subsidized, healthy food.


Project SHARE executive director Pam Sharp said the donation comes at an important time.

“The support from all the community members and all the stores and employees … is just wonderful,” she said. “We’re still seeing all-time records and trying to come up with creative ways to meet that need, so this support is really huge in helping us do that.”


Sharp said her agency is now serving about one in 10 residents of Niagara Falls struggling to put food on the table.


“That number is not acceptable and we are working hard to advocate for systemic change so families can meet their own basic needs,” she said. “Until then however, we are so incredibly grateful for the continued partnership of the Niagara Falls Tim Hortons owners and the generosity of our community who supported this campaign and helped ensure none of our neighbours go hungry.”


GROW founder and volunteer executive director Pam Farrell said the funds will help her agency make a difference in the lives of people experiencing food insecurity by going toward the food costs in the market and in cooking classes, as well as expanding the market space to support the agency’s ever-growing number of clients in the Elgin neighbourhood where more than 2,500 people have a household income of less than $20,000 per year.


“We are so grateful for the support of Tim Hortons and everyone in the community who went out and purchased a Smile Cookie,” she said.


Paul Bright, one of the local Tim Hortons owners, said the community stepped up “huge” at a time of hardship for many. Across Niagara, the Smile Cookie campaign raised $525,000 for 12 charities, he said.


“The beautiful thing with this is, every penny from that cookie sale stays here in Niagara,” said Bright. “The people that contribute give back to their community.”


All charities are hurting now, but Project SHARE and GROW are especially important when so many people are struggling with food prices, said Bright.


“These are two key charities that give back to the most vulnerable in society,” he said. “If you have the proper nutrition, kids learn better, you’re healthier, it takes (strain) off of the health-care system. As a whole we’re a much better community.”

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