The Giving Index: Helping Women Period

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 7:30 am
Sarah Spohn

A Huffington Post article inspired two local women to raise funds for menstrual supplies within low income households and the homeless community. Co-Directors Lysne Tait and Amy Stephenson created Helping Women Period (HWP) in 2015, and have now donated over 1 million products to the greater Lansing area.

Tait describes the need for menstrual hygiene products as “ubiquitous and expensive.” She adds that these necessary products are often prohibitively expensive for women using primary assistance programs like WIC or SNAP who might face a choice between groceries and pads or napkins.

Our State ranks relatively high in terms of homelessness, making the need for Helping Women Period that much greater. “Michigan saw one of the largest increases in the number of homeless families in 2013 to 2014 with a 9.4% increase, and 69% of that population is single mothers with children,” Tait said. “The result is that homeless women and girls are experiencing their periods without the dignity of menstrual hygiene products.”

As of November 2018, Helping Women Period has distributed 158,000 tampons, 186,000 pads, 77,000 liners, 66,000 wipes, 34,000 bladder control pads, and 4,300 handmade bags.

Helping Women Period supplies shelters, food banks, and homeless organizations with pads, tampons, panty liners and personal wipes. “In 2018, we distributed enough product to take care of over 1,500 women’s menstrual needs for an entire year,” Tait said.

Today, the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization partners with over 120 charity partners, including East Lansing Public Schools, the Lansing School District, elementary and middle schools, Lansing Community College’s Stars Helping Stars Food Pantry, and more.

HWP needs community members to donate products at one of their 14 drop box locations, run mini-product drives, host a drop-off location, or make bags for discreet delivery. Monetary donations may be made via PayPal or traditional mail. Locally, feminine hygiene products may be donated at Spartan Dance & Fit Center in East Lansing.

Volunteers may also assist in delivering orders to those in need. Once a month, Helping Women Period visits the mobile food pantry with the City of Lansing Human Relations and Community Services Department and the Greater Lansing Food Bank to distribute free, fresh and non-perishable food items, as well as menstrual products. The monthly event takes place year-round, rain or shine, outside the Bethlehem Temple Church.

If you’re short on time but want to help, Tait explains a modest donation goes a long way. “We rely on individual donations and a few grants to purchase our products from MichCo, a local janitorial supply company,” Tait said. "Thanks to MichCo, and generous donors, we can provide for one person’s menstrual needs for an entire year for only $35. That’s a week’s worth of lattes!”

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