New Galena group hopes to address local ‘period poverty’

Kimberly Thompson

Patrons of the Galena (Ill.) Food Pantry can find many essentials, from food to used clothing.

For years, though, one type of item has been notably absent: Feminine hygiene products. Now, a local charitable group hopes to remedy that.

Women and Friends Making a Difference, of Galena, has launched an initiative to gather feminine hygiene products, including tampons, liners and sanitary wipes, to be distributed to low-income families.

Kimberly Thompson, the group’s leader, said the products have been in high demand from families.

“So many people don’t realize how much it is needed and how costly it can be,” Thompson said. “We discovered that a lot of women were going without these kind of products because they are so expensive.”

About 15.8 percent of women in the U.S. live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Thompson said many of those women also are unable to purchase products like tampons or pads, an effect she referred to as “period poverty.”

Thomas Van Gelder, director of administration for the Galena Food Pantry, said the organization is focused on food and hasn’t been able to invest in feminine hygiene products. He said the new initiative from Women and Friends Making a Difference will be popular with patrons.

“I believe there will be plenty of interest,” Van Gelder said. “A lot of women simply go without it, so this will help a lot.”

Thompson said many women are hesitant to ask for feminine hygiene products, so determining the need can be challenging.

“Many women are embarrassed to ask for a product like this,” Thompson said. “We’re trying to make it where women can see that these products are already there and just take them.”

Similar initiatives exist elsewhere in the tri-state area. In 2016, the Red Basket Project launched in Dubuque. Beth Gilbreath, project co-founder, said demand has been overwhelming, with locations like the Dubuque Rescue Mission going through 50 “period packs” — one month’s supply of feminine hygiene products — per week.

“We’ve been blown away by the demand,” Gilbreath said. “We’ve had a lot of people come up and thank us.”

Thompson said she plans to hold the collections every May and October at locations throughout Galena. She hopes to have the support of the community.

“We haven’t even started the drive yet and we already have 30 boxes of tampons,” Thompson said. “It seems like there is recognition of the need.”

John Kruse writes for the Telegraph Herald.

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