Among the comfort items handed out this winter through Our Place is more than 100 bags crafted by a group of girls in the Monterey Middle School library in their free time.
As winter fell, Ella Hostad wanted to help those facing homelessness. When she was eight, her mom took her downtown to hand out cookies and socks to people having a hard time.
The visit had the desired effect. Now in Grade 7, she wanted to do something bigger.
She came up with the idea of a brunch at first. Unfortunately, a wave of COVID-19 nipped the concept, so the Hostad shifted to creating comfort bags to hand out and sought advice from principal Ken Andrews on how to proceed.
He paired her up with teacher Keely Thornton and the two laid out the idea for the Spirit Council, a group of Grade 8 students in leadership roles at the Oak Bay school.
Standing in the school library, guiding the group of youths as they divvy up items and fill bags, Thornton is visibly proud of Hostad for the idea, the team that helped build the bags, and even the entire school community that pulled together to support the idea.
The movement offered an opportunity for young people to learn about philanthropy and activism, Thornton said.
“When you have something you’re passionate about, especially at this age, it’s so great to start nurturing that. I know this is going to develop them into incredible adults who are doing things for their community as well,” she said, adding it’s critical to seize the opportunity to foster that passion and eagerness.
After the pair appeared before the Spirit Council, those students spread the word, Hostad said. Each division worked to fill its classroom box with donations leading up to a deadline that coincided with the Coldest Night of the Year walk on Feb. 26, an annual national fundraiser benefiting Our Place Society locally.
The non-profit provides services for those experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria. From its Pandora Avenue location, Our Place Society offers meals and housing, along with programs supporting the health and wellness, education and practical care of its clients.
On Monday (Feb. 28), the Monterey students added more than 100 bags – packed with items such as warm socks, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush and snacks – to the Our Place arsenal. Unfortunately, snacks with the longest shelf life are among the least healthy, but they’re still snacks, Hostad noted.
Thornton sees it as a confidence-building project for Hostad.
It’s a pretty simple case of treating other as you’d like to be treated, Hostad said. “We’re in a position where we’re capable of giving.”
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