For women living with homelessness, poverty or respite crisis, having a period is more than a hassle. It can be a financial burden on an already strained budget. Basic menstrual hygiene products are costly, so it’s especially hard for women struggling to support themselves and their families. But pads and tampons are considered “non-essential” by the federal government, which means they are not covered by safety net programs such as SNAP and WIC.

The Zonta Clubs in Western Massachusetts are addressing this specific challenge through The Period Project, which distributes dignity to women and teens in need. Local Zonta Club members collect donations of money and items to create period kits. The kits are then supplied to local shelters, food banks and other nonprofit organizations that serve those in need. Recently, Zonta Clubs in Western Mass donated hundreds of period kits to Good To Go, a new initiative of MHA which supplies individuals served by the organization with basic personal care items, such as soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, undergarments and socks—and now, for the women served, a period kit.

“MHA is absolutely thrilled to receive these period kits donated by Zonta Clubs in Western Mass,” said Kimberley A. Lee, VP Resource Development & Branding for MHA. “Good To Go has been making an important difference in the lives of vulnerable people, and now we’re better able to serve women with basic, crucial personal care items that people don’t always think to donate.”

“Zonta International works to empower women through service and advocacy,” said Mary Knight, Communications Director for Zonta Clubs in Western Mass. “Our organization is in 68 countries worldwide but locally our focus is on women in need. Our members work to share the message that women who are without means can’t use SNAP or WIC to buy feminine products. Often that means women who are struggling financially can’t go to work and teens can’t go to school because they lack protection. It’s humiliating and unfair. The Period Project was created to raise awareness and to collect donations of money and products to make a difference. Together, we’re making period a little easier for women and teens in need.”

On February 11, local Zonta Club members organized a group of 60 volunteers into teams of six, created an assembly line and collated more than 1,000 individual period kits. Each kit contain pads, tampons, underwear, panty liners, assorted toiletries and personal care supplies for one period, all in a 1-gallon zip-close plastic bag. This approach to packaging means kits can easily be taken off the shelf and handed out to women and teens who need them.

“We encourage people to bring period supplies to local shelters or food banks or organizations like MHA,” said Knight. “For women in need, a period kit gives them one less thing to worry about.”

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About MHA:

MHA is a nonprofit provider of residential and support services based in Springfield, MA, providing services throughout the Greater Springfield area to people impacted by mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse and homelessness. Our core values are Respect, Integrity and Compassion.

MHA has 400 full- and part-time employees and serves more than 600 participants annually. We operate 25 residential sites, as well as extensive outreach and supported living programs. MHA receives state and federal funding from multiple sources including the MA Department of Mental Health (DMH), MA Department of Developmental Services (DDS), MA Department of Children and Families (DCF), MA Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHDC) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

MHA was founded in 1960 by concerned citizens to provide advocacy for people with mental illness living at Northampton State Hospital. Throughout the deinstitutionalization movement MHA developed a continuum of housing and support options to participants with a wide variety of needs. Our services reflect the belief that everyone deserves quality affordable housing, the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential and the support to pursue their personal vision and meaningfully participate in the life of their community.