The Everybody Deserves A Smile campaign is underway for the 2022 Christmas season. Photo supplied

The Everybody Deserves A Smile campaign is underway for the 2022 Christmas season. Photo supplied

Comox Valley’s Everybody Deserves A Smile campaign up and running for 2022

Campaign provides ‘bags of hope’ to those in need in the Valley and beyond at Christmas

The Everybody Deserves A Smile campaign is up and running for another season, and the committee is putting the call out for community help.

2022 marks the 19th year for the campaign – and 15th in the Comox Valley.

EDAS originally started in Edmonton when Chantal Stefan and three friends distributed handmade bags full of socks, cookies, and Christmas cards throughout Edmonton’s back alleys to spread a little Christmas cheer.

What started as a one-off idea to send out positive vibes to those who needed them has turned into a multi-school, multi-city initiative, impacting the vulnerable from the Comox Valley all the way to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Last year the EDAS crew delivered 898 packages to local shelters and agencies, as well as an additional 400 packages to shelters in Victoria and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

They are hoping to increase that number this year.

“The number has grown more than ever, due to COVID and many more things,” Stefan said. “We are trying to help the most we have ever helped in the Comox Valley. The full total is 1,355 people, with 910 of those being in the Comox Valley.

“We are also working on a shorter timetable this year. Instead of having about five weeks, we have three weeks to bring it all together.”

The number is derived through contact with local agencies.

“We come to the total by asking our coalitions, and asking their needs,” explained Stefan. “We are so blessed to have incredible partnerships right now. This year we will be handing out to 16 support agencies, shelters, soup kitchens in the Comox Valley.”

Stefan is confident through working with the local agencies, they are reaching as many people as possible.

“There will always be some homeless who may fall through the cracks, but we do try to minimize that number by reaching out to the coalitions that have contact with the ‘hidden homeless’ like the Care-A-Van.”

The EDAS crew will also be walking the streets of the Comox Valley on Dec. 9 to make contact with others, such as people who may be living in their vehicles.

The first step for the project is obtaining the goods.

Items needed include:

• Woolen or part wool socks;

• Toques;

• Mitts/gloves;

• Scarves.

Organizers are requesting XL sizes for men and non-binary, and medium sizes for women.

The original target is to outfit 740 men, 511 women and 103 non-binary.

Monetary donations are also being accepted and can be made to (e-transfers) or by cheques made to EDAS. Cheques can be dropped off at École Puntledge Park Elementary (401 Willemar Ave., Courtenay).

Stefan encourages everyone who can to make donations in kind as opposed to monetary donations.

“In-kind is probably more treasured for us and more helpful, because there is such loving intention behind it… we can definitely use the financial contributions, but for people to take the time to either knit, or purchase, the items for people in need just brings that much more (personal touch) to the project.”

Donation drop boxes are situated at Comox Community Centre, Village Yarn Shoppe, Cumberland Community School, Courtenay Vancouver Island Regional Library, Uptown Yarns, Evergreen Club in the Florence Filberg Centre, Re/Max Realty (Courtenay), Studio IPF: Inner Pursuit Fitness.

The following schools are also housing donation drop boxes: École Puntledge Park, Arden Elementary School, Valley View Elementary School, École Robb Road, Queneesh Elementary School, Highland Secondary School, G.P Vanier Secondary, Mark Isfeld Secondary, Huband Park Elementary, Navigate (NIDES) School, Brooklyn Elementary School, Cumberland Community School, Aspen Elementary School, Courtenay Elementary School.

Students from throughout the Valley will spend Dec. 8-9 putting together the packages, which will be delivered to locations throughout the Comox Valley on the weekend of Dec. 10.

“I also have an adult team that will head down to Victoria to deliver to three shelters there, and we take our Grade 7 students across the Island to deliver to ASVI and across the Island, eventually ending up at Rock Bay Landing, in Victoria.”

The delivery portion of the project will conclude on Dec. 17, with packages being taken to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

ALSO: Courtenay’s Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner seeking additional sponsors
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