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Chemeketa receives heavy flow of donations

Volunteers assembling menstruation kits. Photo by Taylor Wynia

Chemeketa Community College held a menstruation product donation drive and kit making event for their community.

On April 9, Chemeketa’s multicultural center was full of laughter, Alicia Keys anthems and surprisingly, period products. Together, students and faculty volunteers worked to assemble 150 menstruation kits from numerous donations brought in by a community of Chemeketa staff, students and local Facebook groups.

“[This] is an equity issue that we should all be talking about,” said Peggy Greene, Chemeketa’s Grants Coordinator. “But it very much goes unspoken a lot of the time. You know, people’s reaction to period products often are negative, or to pull away.”

Greene was initially inspired to host this event at Chemeketa after attending a fall state conference for the American Association of Women in Community Colleges, AAWCC, an organization which seeks to, “provide leadership and professional development opportunities,” for women in community colleges. The conference was led by speaker Nadya Okamoto, a 21-year-old Portlander who started the nonprofit, PERIOD, at age 16. PERIOD seeks to end period poverty one pad at a time.

Period Poverty is a phrase to describe those, “who don’t have enough money to be able to afford sanitary items for their monthly flow,” said Jen Moore, a women’s studies professor at Chemeketa.

“She just lit a fire under us to figure out how we can make a difference in our area,” said Greene. After the conference, Greene met with Grecia Garcia, Chemeketa’s Student Services Specialist, and Linda Ringo-Reyna, the Multicultural Center’s coordinator. Together, the three decided this was an event worth undertaking.

“One out of 10 people can’t afford things like this,” said Garcia. “They’re super needed and they’re so expensive.”

Any walk through a supermarket aisle will show period products from $7 to upwards of $20. Those numbers add up.

“I’d have to use paper towels, toilet paper, whatever there was available…I shoplifted one time to get some tampons,” admitted Lorraine Craig of Simonka Place, a local shelter for women and children. Craig was homeless for ten years after the death of her husband. She found sanctuary at Simonka Place and, with their help, was able to begin overcoming her years of hardship. Craig has found the strength to embrace sobriety during the three years she’s lived there.

Periods can often be an uncomfortable process with an influx of hormones, stained pants and embarrassment. This, compounded with a lack of access to water, clean clothes or the proper sanitary supplies, can force homeless and impoverished people to face toxic shock syndrome, urinary tract infections and yeast infections. On top of that, many low-income people do not have access to health care, only worsening their suffering.

According to a study done by the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. in 2017, women are 38% more likely to be homeless than men, yet this basic necessity is often not met.   

Craig struggled with this issue, recalling being kicked out of places as a paying customer when she stayed too long in their bathrooms, trying her best to take care of herself with limited resources. “It’s hard. You just don’t feel clean. All around, you just don’t feel clean.”

According to Craig, equity drives like this mean the world to people in similar positions. “Sometimes, you go to [shelters] and they’re out. It depends on if they get the donations or not, you know? People that hand that stuff out for free, they rely on donations too, and if they’re not being donated the product, then they can’t. It’s just all about people being kind and giving it.”

The packs assembled by Chemeketa volunteers each contain around a week’s supply of pads, tampons and panty liners. These will be stored in the Salem Campus food pantry. Any excess will be donated to local nonprofits and shelters.

“[The food pantry] is where we get a lot of high need people coming into the college,” explained Greene. “Students and employees built up the food pantry and we continue to get together to support the needs. I think this is one that has been kinda unrecognized for a while.”

Garcia and Greene hope to help the immediate problem as best as they can.

“Grecia and I have talked about…producing signage in the bathrooms to help people know that these resources are available on campus…I imagine, we might even be able to have signage at the end of next month,” said Greene. “The intent would be for both [men and women’s bathrooms]…so that there would be no barriers.”

Moore believes the unaddressed issue of menstrual product accessibility feeds back to a patriarchal society; “We, as a culture, have all of our institutions run by men, we have medical institutions run by men, we have laws that are created by white men, all these folks who don’t have periods themselves, so they’re not consciously [taking this] into account.”

“They’re seen as a luxury item to someone who doesn’t need them,” said Moore. “But…all bodies who bleed know that this is as simple as needing toilet paper.”

“Our students are so very talented and when they get together to do something, they make an impact,” said Greene. “That was great that we [could] come together as different units in the college to make [this event] possible.”


Check out more photos from this event posted here.

If you would like to get involved, bring donations to the Salem campus food pantry.

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