When Phoenix Middle School students Sandrine Daniels and Jessica Revoy began approaching local merchants for donations they intended to distribute to Campbell River’s homeless population, they were met with some surprise.
On Wednesday, it was the girls’ turn to be surprised by the outpouring of gratitude they received for their gesture.
“It feels really good, seeing how much they appreciate it,” said Revoy. “Knowing how much they care, it’s nice.”
The two girls, along with their mothers and teacher Sarah Vernier, visited Lighthouse Soup Kitchen Wednesday at noon to distribute 70 “pack packs” of personal health and hygiene products and water bottles to residents who most need them.
The distribution of the bags was the culmination of a classroom project titled What is Home?, initiated by Vernier. It began with language arts exercises and expanded to include community service outreach.
Daniels and Revoy had already played music for residents of New Horizons Seniors Home several times, but were inspired to do more after a series of classroom visits by residents living on Campbell River’s streets.
Their initial plan was a fundraising walk, with proceeds to be split between the homeless and the SPCA, but the cost of liability insurance quashed that idea.
The classmates then chose as their project to provide a few necessities to those homeless by canvassing area businesses and requesting donations.
“I had an idea to raise money to provide bags to the homeless of things they really needed,” said Daniels.
Visiting local drug stores, grocers, dollar stores, dentists offices and more, the two were overwhelmed by the response.
Shoppers Drug Mart became the de facto title sponsor of the project by donating not only $1,400 worth of goods, but 100 bags into which the products would be placed for distribution.
Items donated included soaps, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, water bottles, cosmetics, combs for men and hairbrushes for women, along with other personal hygiene products and some cosmetics. Men’s bags also had a razor and shaving cream.
Many other businesses contributed products and/or money to the students, including London Drugs and People’s Drug Mart, the Real Canadian Superstore, SaveOn Foods, Thrifty Foods, Walmart and Quality Foods. The City of Campbell River added refillable water bottles to the bags, and Above Shore Dental Clinic and Beyond Beautiful Smiles Dental Clinic chipped in with toothbrushes and floss.
“They actually seemed pretty surprised,” Revoy said of the initial response when the students approached the donors.
“But they were all very generous with their donations,” Daniels added.
Where the girls received money, it was used to purchase items that were not donated in large enough numbers.
They pre-packaged 40 bags for women and 30 for men, and had many extra items available to create additional custom bags that will be distributed to other facilities in the city serving people in need.
During Wednesday’s distribution, visitors to the soup kitchen finished their meals and approached, individually or in small groups, a table the students set up on a small raised stage in the corner of the room to receive their bags.
“I’m absolutely ovewhelmed,” said Paul Mason, director of Campbell River Family Services. “It’s such a struggle getting what we need for the homeless in our community. When you see something like this, it restores your faith.”
Mason was not alone in his appreciation. Nadine Charlie collected her bag and began to leave, but turned around and returned to the stage.
“I gotta hug these babies; these babies are good,” she said before hugging each of the students. “You’re young ladies; thanks for caring.
“You guys got good hearts; keep it up, please. We all need people like you.”