Every year, Tim Horton’s holds its Smile Cookie fundraiser, where each local franchise owner can pick a charity in their community that the proceeds from cookie sales will support. It’s a great way to help raise money for great causes directly in our communities!
This year, a group of Edmonton franchise owners decided to try something different. The group agreed to pool their efforts to make a larger collective impact – ultimately choosing Bissell Centre as their charity of choice.
And just like that, this quickly became one of the largest fundraising campaigns we’ve held – raising more than $400,000 in a single week.
Bissell’s Child and Family Supports
Funds from this spring’s Smile Cookie campaign all went to support our Child and Family Supports Program. Last year, we helped more than 1,600 families find their way out of poverty and emergency situations. These programs make a massive impact that people in Edmonton don’t often see.
“It’s things like connections to free pre-natal care, parental supports, or free access to emergency essentials like diapers and formula,” says Jonathan Mackereth, Development Officer with Bissell Centre.
Mackereth explains that Bissell has run a childcare for more than 50 years, serving families in the downtown core. The centre is fully staffed by Early Childhood Education professionals, providing Early Childhood Development for short- and long-term – serving childcare from newborns to six years old.
“There’s are enough challenges finding quality childcare – finances shouldn’t be one of them,” says Mackereth “Lots of parents even drop-off their kids to access other programs like our Employment Services or Financial Empowerment workshops, making it an essential part of our approach to ending poverty.”
Supporting and Celebrating Together
Learning that 147 Tim’s locations all came together to support Bissell Centre, “caught us a little off guard,” Jonathan jokes. “We knew right away opportunities like this don’t come often. We pooled resources into making sure folks knew that buying a cookie would help a child.”
Team members from Bissell Centre could be found at a few different locations around the city during this campaign. Whether it was celebrating with giant cookie cut-outs by the drive-thru, or putting on hair nets and decorating cookies, the teams stepped up to make the week unforgettable.
By the end of the campaign, more than 300,000 cookies were sold – raising more than $464,000! People didn’t hesitate to add a smile cookie to their regular double-double orders – with some businesses and schools pre-ordering up to 1,500 cookies at a time.
“On the first day, we had a manager come out to see us,” Jonathan recalls. “She said in the first two hours of the morning rush, they sold more than a quarter of the cookies they sold for the entire campaign last year.”
We can’t thank the Edmonton Tim’s franchisees enough for all the support they’ve given us. This will directly impact families and children experiencing houselessness and poverty in Edmonton. Thank you for helping us make Edmonton a little bit more of an equitable place to call home.
Working with a diverse community means encountering a diverse set of challenges – oftentimes, these are the very challenges that lead these folks into experiencing poverty. Often, when someone is experiencing homelessness, they’re also struggling with mental illness. In fact, according to The Homeless Hub, 30 to 35 per cent of those experiencing homelessness report mental health issues.
Bissell Centre’s support workers are trained and skilled at working with folks managing an array of mental health challenges. While diagnoses and treatments are best left to medical professionals, support workers’ expertise lies in helping folks manage the immediate surfacing symptoms of the mental illness they are experiencing.
For Mental Health Month, we’re taking a look at the most prevalent mental health indicators seen – and how our Mental Health program and support workers help our community members with the immediate challenges they face.
Bissell Centre’s Mental Health Program
Bissell Centre mental health support staff work as advocates for folks experiencing mental health complications. Oftentimes, community members struggle to navigate our health care system – or worse, have seen family and friends fall through the cracks. They may also have their own trauma and now distrust the health care system.
This service to community members goes far beyond helping with immediate crises. Support workers will continue reaching out to community members they helped and accompany them to appointments and help them be comfortable enough to voice their experience and advocate for themselves.
The main difference is the trust we build with our community members. While folks have their reasons to distrust establishments, we can overcome that barrier with one-to-one connections, supportive conversations, and mapping out a strategy for reaching whatever goals folks might have.
Most Common Mental Health Issues we see
Whether it’s a pre-existing condition, instigated from trauma, a result of substance use, or a combination of all these factors, Bissell Centre works with a lot of different mental health experiences – mainly as they outwardly present. Again, any further assessments are better left to mental health professionals.
Our support workers help folks manage their immediate crises: this can include anger and agitation, hallucinations and dissociation, thoughts of self-harm and suicide, or any other immediate challenge the community member needs to work through.
Bissell has a Mental Health program that works directly with those in need. However, so many of our case workers in other programs, including FASS, Housing, Family Services, and Case Management also provide ongoing supports to community members. We find we have the most success when we collaborate as the many elements of houselessness are so entwined.
While Bissell Centre isn’t a cure for mental health, it’s easily one of the best first stops someone can make when they’re working through mental health issues. Our support workers are well-versed in Alberta’s health system – and how best our community members can get the help they need to move out of poverty and find their prosperity.