Students at Springwood Elementary School show off their decorated liquor bottle bags with B.C. Liquor Stores employees Tiffany Chalmer and Karen Ramsay (back row

Students at Springwood Elementary School show off their decorated liquor bottle bags with B.C. Liquor Stores employees Tiffany Chalmer and Karen Ramsay (back row

VIDEO: Parksville students decorate booze bags with safety messages

“We have the kids decorate them with anti drinking-and-driving or positive, get-home-safe statements”

The three B.C. Liquor Stores in Parksville Qualicum Beach will transform in the coming weeks into temporary art galleries showcasing unknown, emerging artists.

Not only will the custom-designed works be free, but you can even use them to carry home your liquor purchases.

The Paper Bag Project, a joint initiative involving Oceanside RCMP, ICBC, School District 69 and B.C. Liquor Stores, has returned after a one-year hiatus on the mid-Island. Through the program, RCMP youth officer Cpl. Melanie Ells gathered paper liquor bottle bags and delivered them to Grade 5, 6 and 7 classrooms, where students decorated them with holiday-themed designs and messages.

“We have the kids decorate them with anti drinking-and-driving or positive, get-home-safe statements,” said Ells. “Like, ‘Get home safe; don’t drink and drive. Santa’s watching.'”

In all, Ells has gathered about 850 individually decorated bags, which will be distributed evenly between the two B.C. Liquor Stores locations in Parksville and the one in downtown Qualicum Beach.

“It’s fun to get the bags back and see what the kids have drawn on them,” said Karen Ramsay of B.C. Liquor Stores. “I think it helps the community be more socially aware at Christmas, and it’s a fun way to promote safe holidays.”

Ells, who served as project co-ordinator and liaison with each of the parties, said there was no hesitation when she asked B.C. Liquor Stores and the school district’s administrators if they were interested. In addition to providing a community service, she said, it also provides teachers a nice, simple art lesson with a positive message of getting home safely during the holiday season.

“It’s a pretty fun program,” said Jason Payne, a Grade 7 student artist at Springwood Elementary School. “I like that it’s helping the community to keep our roads safe.”

Caroline Robinson, road safety co-ordinator with ICBC, said the fun approach is just another way to share the message for holiday revellers to refrain from drinking and driving.

“There’s lots of things you can do,” said Robinson. “You can get a designated driver, you can take a taxi, stay over; do whatever you need to do. But plan that before you go out and have alcohol with any of your festivities.

“It’s really great when we can have this partnership with the community and have this friendly reminder for folks. And the absolutely incredible artwork that all these wonderful children have done; I can’t speak to that enough. It’s really great when they can participate. It’s awareness for the students as well as for the whole community of what’s important this time of year. And that’s getting home safely so you can enjoy the holiday time with your family and friends.”