Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a series of 10 weekly articles that will appear each Thursday as part of the Be Kind campaign, an initiative spearheaded by Orillia's Emergency Management Committee.
Coco’s Cookies owner Nicole Hepinstall and her fiancé Tyson Renshaw love to support their community. But they had to be coaxed into talking about the kind and inspiring things they do for other people.
“We really don’t do it for praise,” Renshaw said. “It’s just who we are.”
Every month since the store opened in November of 2020, the pair have donated their tips to various charities and organizations, trying to keep it as local as possible.
“We also try to find out from the organizations where the money would go so that we can inform our customers,” Hepinstall said.
“For example, in September, we donated our tips to Orchard Park Public School. We have a regular customer who works there and she had mentioned that they have a lot of children in classrooms who are struggling and their parents aren’t able to pack lunches for them,” she said. “They don’t have a breakfast club as they don’t have enough volunteers to make that happen.”
Orchard Park teachers buy grocery cards and give them to parents who are having difficulty making ends meet. “Last month, we raised almost $250 to purchase grocery store gift cards” for local families at the school.
“So far, we’ve been in business less than a year and we’ve donated — in monetary donations — over $5,000 back into our community,” Renshaw added.
In addition to the many organizations Hepinstall and Renshaw support, they also focus on supporting the work Orillia resident Carolyn-Marie Goodwin does for the community, the Lighthouse and Uplifting Blessings.
“A lot of times, she’ll come in and just kind of mention to us a family or a specific person or people in the community who are struggling and we’ll ... give whatever we can,” Hepinstall said.
The work Goodwin does is a source of inspiration for the couple.
“She’s like a superhuman. She’s unreal. I don’t know how she helps all the people in the community that she does. People now message me and say, ‘hey, I have this whatever it is, food or whatever that I want to donate. Where should I donate?’ I always say ask Carolyn. She knows everyone in the community that’s struggling and she can find out for them," Hepinstall explained.
Goodwin is also generous with her praise for Hepinstall and Renshaw.
“They’ve done an amazing job of spreading the word on what we do. They themselves—not only through their company—but through their family, they’ve donated clothes and certain items that we’ve needed,” Goodwin said.
“They, at one point, collected their tips for us,” she said. “They get behind each of our promotional things that are going on. Coming up for Christmas, they’re going to be collecting an item that goes into our stockings. They avidly spread the word in their store and also on social media.”
Goodwin has also gone into Coco’s Cookies to buy cookies for herself. “Because they’re delicious,” she laughed.
But when she leaves, she rarely departs with just her favourite salted caramel variety. “I’ve gone in and they’ve given me boxes of cookies to take to the shelter, to give to not only the participants but also the volunteers that are working.
"During Thanksgiving, they gave us cookies for the Thanksgiving meals we gave out and I took the leftovers to the Lighthouse participants and staff so they could have a Thanksgiving treat as well. They’re incredible people,” said Goodwin.
The work that Goodwin and her volunteers do would not be possible without the support of the community and local businesses like Coco’s Cookies, she said. “We’re trying to encourage local businesses to work together on that common goal to assist the community.”
Community members and local businesses who would like to help Goodwin with Uplifting Blessings’ Christmas Drive can contact her at 705-985-1957.
Do you know of an act of kindness or generosity that should be shared with the community? If so, please email your idea and contact information to email@example.com.