Vaughan man raises $21K to help Tim Hortons employee return to school
Vishnugopan "Vishnu" Sothilingan, 28, is the beloved drive-thru employee at Rutherford & Bathurst Tim Hortons
Jan. 6, 2021
Jeremy Grimaldi and Dina Al-Shibeeb
No matter what he’s feeling going in, Matthew Shulman always leaves the Tim Hortons drive-thru with a full cup of promise, thanks to his favourite employee -- Vishnugopan "Vishnu" Sothilingan.
“I call it getting a cup of Vishnu, if you’re ever having a sh---y day, he’ll be there with a fist bump; he doesn’t give us coffee, he gives us hope for a better world,” Shulman told yorkregion.com.
While he never thought he was the only customer at the Tim Hortons at Bathurst Street and Rutherford Road who admired Sothilingan so much, he would be stunned by the impact this one man was making around the community.
Until a Facebook friend began posting small anecdotes about the 28-year-old she called the “Vishnu chronicles.”
After learning he’d been forced to abandon his IT studies at York University due to financial constraints, he decided to contact Tim Hortons to jockey a management or franchise role for the Markham native.
Despite repeated calls, the company failed to return his overtures.
So he got to work on a GoFundMe page to raise cash in hopes Sothilingan would return to school.
Shulman was stunned with the response, raising more than $21,000.
“I have nothing against serving coffee, we need people to serve coffee, but in my humble opinion, Vishnu was destined to do more,” he added. “He has personality galore, he’s like a celebrity. I just wanted to change his trajectory.”
When Sothilingan heard about the gesture, he was over the moon that someone could do something so special for him.
“I just treat others how I would like to be treated; I try to be optimistic,” he told yorkregion.com. “Some mornings, even if I’m crying inside, I’m smiling on the outside. A smile doesn’t cost a thing -- it’s free.”
He said he originally quit school so that his older sisters, who’d worked for years themselves, could attend.
Sothilingan said he was ineligible for OSAP because he was making so much money working two jobs.
What the student loan system didn’t know is the bulk of it going to pay for his family home’s mortgage.
Sothilingan says in an average day, working the 8 a.m. to noon shift, he serves more than 500 people a day, a huge proportion of which are return customers.
“Me and the whole team do our best to remember every customer. There are people in the back (of the shop) that don’t get credit. One girl knows people’s orders by the sound of their voices, so I share all tips I get with them,” Sothilingan said, explaining he often gets gifts around the holidays, although not anywhere close to this one.
He said he feels guilty accepting such an elaborate sum and although he does plan to go back to school eventually, he is planning to share the proceeds with those in his native land, Sri Lanka, from where he fled war with his family.
“My brother always says you can feed a man for a day with a fish, but if you teach him to fish he can feed his family for the rest of their lives,” he added. “I want to facilitate a community to self-sustain. If you can help 10, 20, 30 children, that can turn into 60, 100, 300. That’s how goodness grows.”Tim Hortons did not respond to requests for comment.