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Cultivating Kindness: Everybody Deserves a Smile

December 18, 2023

Building lasting empathy and compassion requires ongoing dedication. The consistent effort has far-reaching effects, creating benefits for all involved.

This profound impact on individuals and community is precisely what drives Doe and Mac Fraser, the community leads of the qathet branch of Everybody Deserves A Smile (EDAS).

The making of smiles

Every holiday season since 2019 EDAS qathet has been distributing carefully curated gift bags to vulnerable people in the region. These bags, filled with essentials like toiletries, warm hats and scarves, and adorned with personalized handmade cards and homemade treats, carry more than just tangible items. 

“There is value in the things in the bag,” Mac says. “But the bigger gift is the demonstration that someone cares.”

Where it all began

The roots of EDAS stretch back two decades to Edmonton, where compassionate university students, led by Chantal Stefan, noticed the plight of homeless individuals. Starting with 88 bags left for those in need, the project gained momentum and burgeoned into satellite branches across various cities, including Vancouver (East Hastings), Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Comox Valley, Red Deer, London (England), Montreal, and qathet.

A long reach

In 2019 EDAS qathet distributed 100 bags and in 2023 they delivered more than 500. Initially seeded by Doe and Mac, the idea found resonance at the United Church. Next, they got Henderson Elementary School, their host school, on board. Today the initiative involves curriculum that is incorporated year-round into all the grades at Henderson, as well as selected grades at five other local elementary schools. In the months leading up to the holidays children from across the community help to make the cards and decorate the bags.

Students in the Culinary Arts Program at Brooks Secondary School bake the shortbread cookies, and dozens of community volunteers help decorate the cookies. Businesses donate money and other resources, and community organizations and churches help to raise additional funds and put EDAS in touch with community members who become recipients of the bags.

It takes a community

The project looks a little bit different each year, and that’s important, Doe says, because the needs and the community change. 

First Credit Union was the first local business to embrace the project in 2019, and Doe and Mac are grateful not only for ongoing donations they have offered, but for their support in making the project sustainable.

“Powell River has a huge capacity to help,” Mac adds. “When more people are struggling, we produce more bags. And every time the community has been there. It comes in different forms at different times, but it's there.”

Kindness breeds kindness

For Doe and Mac, the impetus to lead EDAS qathet stemmed from encountering a lack of awareness about homelessness in the region. 

“EDAS is about truly seeing people who society often makes invisible,” Doe says. “I thought when we started that there was room to grow, and I think I see that happening. Somehow in all of this I think the children are going to be the ones that will allow us to see that everyone is valuable.”

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Written by Emma Levez Larocque