Everyone deserves to be treated with love, no matter their circumstances.

That’s the message that Everybody Deserves A Smile continues to deliver every year.

The not for profit organization has been running for 16 years and works to inspire hundreds of students, school staff and community members to come together and help the homeless.

The EDAS Comox Valley Lead and Chair Chantal Stefan says the initiative helps students get what is needed for those in the community.

“We have students kindergarten to grade twelve hand paint bags and hand out homemade Christmas cards and then the community donates wool and socks, tuques, mitts, a toothbrush, toothpaste and the kids come together and package the bags over two days,” said Stefan.

“Then they go into soup kitchens and shelters and hand out and connect with their local homeless population.”

Stefan, who is a teacher at Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary says the project also helps teach kids that everyone is equal.

“Over the six weeks, kids are learning about addiction, poverty, and active citizenship and homelessness. It’s building a connection and a bridge to those homeless, so it’s helping those kids understand that everybody is somebody, no matter what their story.”

Stefan added that students interested in taking part have to show real dedication for the cause.

“They have to apply to be part of the EDAS club, and its a pretty rigorous application process. From getting sponsorship from a teacher and a parent to advocate for them, they get interviewed and they have to choose a growth factor within the process.”

One of the grade 7 students helping with the project, Isabelle, says it has helped her keep an open mind.

“I won’t just walk past people living on the streets. I’ll probably look at them and smile because they are just as human as we are.”

The group is donating the next set of care packages to the St.Georges soup kitchen tomorrow before sending more to shelters in Nanaimo, Duncan and Victoria.

For more information on the ‘Everyone Deserves A Smile’ project, visit their Facebook page.