It was a packed week but, at the end of the day, the inaugural Smile Cookie Week through the Altona Tim Horton's brought smiles to countless people. 

"It was a bit of a hairy week, but it was great! It was so fun," said Nina Edbom-Kehler, coordinator of the Altona and Area Family Resource Centre (AAFRC), the benefactor of the fund-raising campaign. She reflected on the week-long effort, which required a lot of behind-the-scenes work by the organization and its volunteers, as she connected Tuesday with franchise owner, Rupesh Patel, and his team to accept a cheque for $16,062. 

"We have good volunteers," added Patel. "That's very important right there, especially in smaller towns. We can ask every single guest coming through our store front, that's one cookie, two cookies at a time. When the volunteers get out and approach businesses, they bring big orders. Like four or five hundred."

Those volunteers included a dedicated retiree who showed up each morning, as well as Access Credit Union staff and Manitoba Sunflower Festival Queen Quest contestants. Together, they all helped decorate, pack and deliver the boxes of pre-ordered cookies. 

"I got to put on a couple of smiles. I wanted to do more smiles but usually, I had to do the running around, getting more icing, that kind of thing," noted Edbom-Kehler.

The campaign also helped raise awareness of the AAFRC, which has been around for over 25 years. 

Edbom-Kehler set up shop at the restaurant each day labelling the orders to go out, and that's when she got to talk about the centre. 

"It was great when we had all the cookies stacked in there. We had so many people come by and say, 'where are they all going?' And then you have the conversation."

Despite serving young families in the area for nearly three decades, Edbom-Kehler says she still gets questions of what the resource centre is and what it does. She added, people also assume the centre is supported by government funding. 

"No no no. We have to solicit for everything that we do and we're very fortunate, we have a lot of great partners in the area. We partner for space, and we partner for the funds and run all of our programming because all of our programming is free," she explained. "Families are welcome to come. Anybody that has a preschooler. Either they can be a grandma, grandpa, aunt and uncle, a neighbour."

Should the AAFRC be fortunate to benefit from another Smile Cookie campaign, Edbom-Kehler says she has bigger plans to be more visible in the community. 

And while the centre benefits from grants to help support its programming and equipment, Edbom-Kehler says not many help cover staffing costs. That is what money raised from Smile Cookie Week will go towards.

"We can staff, we can provide the programming because a lot of our programs, you just need people. You need to talk, you need to visit, you need to play. Play is a huge one and that takes people. It doesn't need another chair. It doesn't need another desk. It doesn't need another toy. Sometimes it's a cardboard box that is the biggest fun that you can have and that, you don't need a lot of funds for. You can usually pick that up at recycling."