NEW BEDFORD — Instead of collecting canned goods this holiday season, The Women's Fund Southcoast collected tampons and menstrual pads.
A total of 2,381 personal care products were gathered through a hygiene drive, including soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and feminine care products.
"Programs like SNAP don't cover basic hygiene products like soap and deodorant," Executive Director Joanne Murray said in a statement. "Research shows that over half of all low-income families are forced to cut back on food and other essentials to afford them."
The supplies were donated by the Boston-based nonprofit organization Hope & Comfort. Volunteers and staff of the Women's Fund sorted the products before loading up cars and delivering to the New Bedford Parenting Teens program and the Grace House homeless shelter for women.
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A full list of supplies donated by Hope & Comfort:
Bars of soap - 144
Shampoo, sulfate free - 24
Shampoo, general - 30
Toothpaste - 60
Toothbrushes - 60
Deodorant unisex, male, female - 60
Pads - 1,003
Tampons - 1,000
Volunteer Carol Kerrisey said items were identified through a needs assessment last winter by calling agencies. The two programs receiving donations were the ones that were most prominent in the search.
This hygiene drive was the first of many to come as part of the Women's Fund's Essentials program. The original idea was to work with local donors and stakeholders but the nonprofit was able to work with the Boston-based distribution center and provide the necessary products to support women and girls in the New Bedford area.
"We wanted to start small and be a conduit," board member and volunteer coordinator Colleen Millett said.
"It's unbelievable that families in poverty need things that are essential," said volunteer and retired nurse practitioner Carole Ferguson.
The Women's Fund intends this program to "be the umbrella catalyst with agencies with direct services to find people to help," Ferguson said.
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By addressing the needs of teenage girls, it helps keep them in school longer to become better educated. Murray said that in many third-world countries and less fortunate areas, girls may miss up to one week of school per month due to lack of feminine hygiene products, giving them a disadvantage in their education.
"We need to educate the community about ... health needs of women unmet," Murray said. "It's a system, not a period. It's what a period does."
The Women's Fund mission states that it supports and sponsors social change that advances economic security and financial independence for women and girls in our region. It builds community partnerships and exercise voice, advocacy, and grant-making to increase equity and opportunity across race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender identity, country of origin, and physical ability.
Standard-Times staff writer Kerri Tallman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kerri_tallman for links to recent articles.
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This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: More than 2,000 hygiene products donated to New Bedford women, girls