ROSCOE VILLAGE — It's that time of year when people are most likely to donate food and clothing for the needy but few think to collect items for "that time of the month."
Members of Lane Tech High School's feminist club, the Organization of Womyn, are taking up the cause to supply homeless women with tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products.
There's a constant need for tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products, but they're rarely donated. [Sabrina Lopez]
The idea came to Sabrina Lopez, 17, after she read an article in Ms. magazine.
"It was all about how we don't realize this is a much needed product," Lopez said. "I've seen homeless women in the street and for sure it never hit me."
At Lane Tech, the school nurse maintains a supply of items for students whose period catches them by surprise, but "what if no one could help me?" Lopez asked.
"There have been times when I haven't had a pad ... that feeling of fear and embarrassment," she said. "I can't even fathom. Something needs to be done."
Club members agreed.
"If you can't afford this necessity, I've always wondered what homeless women did when it was their time of the month," said Grace Coudal, 18. "In a lot of states, tampons are taxed as a 'luxury.' They're obviously not a luxury."
Students cleared the idea for a tampon drive with the Womyn club's faculty sponsor, and members got to work promoting the project.
"It's kind of weird to see posters of tampons and pads being like, 'Donate!'" admitted Coudal, who added that the drive sparked a discussion among female students about how "awkward it is to even unpack a tampon in the bathroom."
The stigma associated with tampons and pads is one of the reasons the items are rarely donated, said Kathleen Trainor, executive director of North Center's Common Pantry, 3744 N. Damen Ave.
The pantry maintains a wish list of toiletries on its website and while "we always get shampoo and deodorant, what we tend not to get is feminine hygiene," said Trainor.
"It's uncomfortable," she said. "Men aren't going to be inclined to donate them."
Yet the need for tampons and pads, along with other toiletries, is constant, Trainor said.
"Toiletries are expensive and can not be purchased with food stamps," she said, noting that diapers fall into the same category.
Lane Tech students Sabrina Lopez and Grace Coudal, members of the school's Organization for Womyn, organized a tampon drive for homeless women. [Grace Coudal]
The Lane Tech drive is ongoing through the end of the year, and students have already collected several bins full of tampons and pads, some of which have been donated by men, Lopez noted.
The club's next step will be deciding whether to hand off their items to a shelter or to personally pass them out to homeless women, she said.
Trainor applauded the teens' effort.
"We need to rely on women to reach this need," she said.