COMOX VALLEY, B.C. – Grade 7 students from École Puntledge Park Elementary will receive a lesson in compassion on Dec. 17.

That day, the 31 students will be hand-delivering gift bags and cards to the homeless across Vancouver Island and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The driving force behind the charity drive is Everyone Deserves A Smile (EDAS), a community project that was started 14 years ago.

EDAS is a service-learning initiative involving Comox Valley students across the district. The motive behind the project is to connect students with homeless people across the valley and Vancouver Island.

Photo courtesy School District 71

While a number of different schools across the district are taking part of the project, École Puntledge Park Elementary is the hub, led by teacher Chantal Stefan.

And recently, those involved have been busily gathering donations as the project moves into “its final push,” explained École Puntledge Park teacher-librarian Kim Marks.

“We’re going to be packaging (the donations) next week,” she said.

“Our students have created gift bags and cards and next week they’ll be filling those gift bags at our gym, and then a team of our students will deliver the gift bags to homeless communities around Vancouver Island.”

The Grade 7s will be visiting shelters in the Comox Valley, Nanaimo, and Victoria, as well as Vancouver’s East Hastings area.

Photo courtesy School District 71

Marks, who will join the students on delivery day, said those involved in EDAS are asking for donations of winter clothing.

“I’ve got a little grocery list of what we’re looking for,” she told the newsroom. “We’re looking for women, 229 pairs of socks and 42 scarves and those are usually size medium for the socks.”

“And then for the men, usually size extra large, we’re looking for 220 toques, 229 scarves, and especially 508 pairs of mitts or gloves.”

Donations bins are located at the RE/MAX office on Cliffe Avenue, Comox Recreation Centre, and at École Puntledge Park and Queneesh elementaries, and Mark Isfeld and GP Vanier secondary schools.

Marks predicts that Dec. 17 will bring an important learning experience for the students.

“They learn a lot about how people living on our streets are dealing with issues… mental health issues, addiction, and how to be compassionate and have empathy for those people and to understand how this kind of issue can have an impact on the direction our lives take,” she said.

The EDAS’s Twitter handle is @EDASproject and you can find the group on Facebook at ‘Everyone Deserves A Smile.’