GTCF Spark Grant Recipient Tackling “Period Poverty” at Local Schools
Sharon Chambers-Gordon was first exposed to the issue of “Period Poverty” through her own daughter’s experience. “She was in Middle School when it happened for the first time, and she didn’t have any supplies with her.” Luckily the school nurse had a few sanitary napkins, but the nurse told Sharon it wasn’t something that the school always kept stocked, “People drop items off from time to time, but it’s not something they always have on hand.”
As Sharon began to ask more questions and talk with other families and school administrators, she learned that period poverty, the inability to afford feminine hygiene products, affects many young women here in Pierce County. “When you’re making just enough to get by, hygiene items and other products like lotion and body wash are often way down on the list,” Sharon explained. “And, Washington is currently one of 37 states with a “pink tax” where feminine care products are taxed like luxury items, so that increases the cost as well.”
Sharon started the Raising Girls project to provide feminine care products to local girls. In 2018 they donated 200 care packages to girls in foster care and the Juvenile Justice program. An additional 50 bags went to the Boys & Girls Club at the Eastside Community Center and those quickly ran out, emphasizing the high demand for this kind of support. This past Winter, Sharon was one of 6 GTCF Spark Grant Recipients, receiving a micro-grant to provide more of these hygiene care packages at the Eastside Community Center.
In addition to the Boys & Girls Club, Sharon has also partnered with Tacoma Public Schools. Rosemarie Burke, principal at First Creek Middle School, sees how Period Poverty can be a barrier for her female students, “Talking to my girls here and at other schools I’ve worked at I know it really is a need. Girls are going without and they are either missing school or just using toilet paper or whatever limited products we might have in the nurse’s office. It impacts attendance, it impacts grades, and it impacts the overall healthy lifestyle for young women here in our community and it would just be great that it wasn’t an issue.”
Earlier this month, Raising Girls assembled 550 care packs which they will soon deliver to 11 Tacoma Public Schools campuses (6 middle schools and 5 high schools). They are also developing plans for workshops, presentations, and print materials for students, teachers, and parents so that everyone knows about the resources available and how to help when the need arises.
Raising Girls is currently hosting a One Bag Drive where community members can grab a bag from locations around Tacoma and fill it with items from an attached list. All of the bags from the drive will be donated to the Eastside Community Center.
Is there a need you are addressing to help make a difference in your community? Apply for a Spark Grant by April 30th and you could receive $1,500 to help make it happen. For more information or to apply click here or contact GTCF Program Officer, Janece Levien.