Everyday Heroes: Period Packs for Harvey

Volunteers assembled hundreds of period packs at PERIOD's Labor Day packing party.

Hurricane Harvey’s record-setting rainfall forced thousands of people along the Texas Gulf Coast out of their homes. Many barely escaped with their lives, with only the clothes on their backs. In the aftermath, there’s significant need for daily survival items -- things like food, water, and clothing.

But what about feminine hygiene products? Most women need them to go about their daily lives; yet, they can be a forgotten necessity. And that’s where a local youth-run nonprofit comes in.

PERIOD.—the Menstrual Movement was founded by Nadya Okamoto in 2014, when she was a senior at Catlin Gabel School. After the personal upheaval of losing her own home, she discovered a place where she could make a difference: helping provide menstrual products for people in need. It was a facet of services that simply wasn’t being addressed.

“That’s often people’s first reaction: ‘I haven’t thought of that,” says Eudora Olsen, the program's manager at PERIOD. “We find people haven’t even thought to donate these products, haven’t even thought about it, because it’s so stigmatized and silenced. We get so much enthusiastic support as soon as people start thinking about it. It’s such an obvious need.”

And while PERIOD first started by partnering with local organizations helping homeless women and teens, its impact doesn’t stop there. It saw a need in Texas, and went to work.

“We saw the need, and a lot of people stepped up to help,” said Olsen.

PERIOD started fundraising for Harvey on its website, period.org, and raised over $8,000. Then, on Labor Day, volunteers and PERIOD workers packed up 700 period kits and shipped them off to The United Way of Greater Houston and the Texas Diaper Bank.

What goes into a period kit? Getting the contents just right has been a long-term process, according to Olsen. Right now, each kit contains nine tampons, five panty liners and five pads. The kits sent to Texas also contained GladRags, reusable menstrual pads created by a Portland company.

PERIOD’s founder and CEO, Okamoto, is now a sophomore at Harvard (where she’s also running for a seat on Cambridge, Massachusetts’s city council). After graduating from Harvard this past spring, Olsen helps run the company in Portland. And as a youth-founded and youth-run nonprofit, one of PERIOD’s big focuses is making an impact on college campuses. The nonprofit now has more than 100 registered campus chapters in 37 states, working to make period products available to all women and remove the stigma of something the average woman will deal with for approximately 3,000 days of her life.

Chapters in Texas are holding product drives. And now other chapters in the Southeast are planning menstrual kit packing parties, ahead of Hurricane Irma. Sponsors donate the supplies and donations pay for shipping to areas of need.

“We have warehouses here in Portland filled with menstrual hygiene products,” says Olsen. “One of our biggest donations was from Tampax this past spring. They donated 250,000 tampons to us.”

But locally, PERIOD could still use your help. It needs people to host period kit packing parties, to deliver to local organizations PERIOD partners with, and it always needs donations for providing and delivering products. Administrative fees are covered by grants and sponsors.

You can find out more about this week’s Everyday Heroes by visiting period.org.

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