BEVERLY — Jesseca Rhymes wants the same thing for her birthday this year — pads, tampons, panty liners and incontinence supplies.
The founder of Never Go Without collects such items and distributes them to women and girls in need. Last year, donations quadrupled as word of the Beverly-based charity's mission spread quickly and drew thousands to help support her cause.
"We received a lot of publicity last year, which really helped us," said Rhymes, who works side by side with her mother, Lynette, to collect and distribute the products.
There are four sites accepting donations this year:
• Djs Bike Doctor at 1344 E. 55th St. in Hyde Park
• Beverly Area Planning Association at 1987 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park
• Belle Up at 1915 W. 103rd St. in Beverly
• Sweet Mandy B's at 1208 W. Webster Ave. in Lincoln Park
Donors are encouraged to take a selfie with their donations at each location. Tagging these pictures on social media as part of the Never Go Without campaign turns each donation into a 15 percent off coupon for the charity's annual fundraiser.
The benefit event will take place from 2-5 p.m. March 25 at Chicago Party Animals in West Town. It costs $50 to attend the event in the converted warehouse space at 1133 W. Fulton Market and all proceeds help buy tampons, pads, incontinence supplies and other personal hygiene items.
"My own experiences each month are a reminder of how blessed I am to have access to the products I need. I can't let myself stop fighting for the women who aren't as fortunate," Rhymes said Monday.
Rhymes' 26th birthday is actually March 27. She works with student housing at DePaul University in Lincoln Park and recently moved to the neighborhood from Beverly to be closer to work.
A graduate of Queen of Peace High School in suburban Burbank, Rhymes founded her charity after reading an article posted Jan. 14, 2015 on the Huffington Post about the struggles of menstruating homeless women. Learning that food and clothing are commonly donated to shelters while tampons and pads are overlooked touched a nerve.
She initially used her 24th birthday to solicit donations and funneled the gifts to Deborah’s Place at 2822 W. Jackson Blvd. in East Garfield Park. This organization is the oldest and largest provider of supportive housing for women in Chicago.
Rhymes used her party to again solicit donations last year, only this time media attention drew hundreds of supporters. Donations surged. Rhymes collected 5,588 pads, 5,055 tampons, 8,855 incontinence supplies, 4,825 panty liners and 1,771 wipes last year.
The overwhelming response required additional storage space, and Margot Burke Holland, executive director of the Beverly Area Planning Association offered to help. The neighborhood group carved out a small storage space that Rhymes now uses ahead of distribution.
"It is a simple and effective program that they have, and it was so easy for us to help," Holland said.
Rhymes hopes to maintain the momentum her charity picked up last year. She remains dedicated to drawing attention to the issue and said Never Go Without hopes to broaden its mission by bringing donations to even more food pantries and homeless shelters this year.
"We are focusing on all of those women in need," she said.