Church of Massachusetts program helping to fight menstrual poverty donates over 100,000 menstruation supplies in less than nine months
A Massachusetts church program helps nearly 1,000 people a month in its fight against menstrual poverty in the state.
“It’s not something nobody ever wants to talk about,” said Bryna Rogers, community relations and development manager at Bay State Community Services, one of St. John’s partners in the project, last May. “It’s not even something a lot of our customers will bring up because of the shame people sometimes feel.”
The program, known as Free, began last May as a ministry offered by St. John the Evangelist in Hingham. He started by helping to “provide menstrual hygiene products to those who needed them on the South Shore”. It has since expanded to the Greater Brockton area and Fall River.
“Products to support this biological function represent an additional expense imposed on many people who are already financially insecure. These products are not covered by the benefits”, website states. “This gap in need and coverage imposes another barrier to equity in education and employment, as many are forced to miss school or work while menstruating.”
At first, menstruation was not something easy to talk about in the church setting. Topics like homelessness, education, or food drives were more common.
“I have never said the word menstruation as much as I have for the past two weeks,” Reverend Tim Schenck said, adding that he realized it was probably shocking to some when he mentioned it for the first time. “Once they get over the initial shock of my talking about menstruation in church, I think that removes the stigma and that’s one of the things we really hope to do.”
But it was worth it because the issue is based on justice and fairness, he previously told MassLive.
“If we as a church can’t fight for these kinds of issues, even if it makes us a little uncomfortable, then what do we do?” He asked.
In nine months, the program has donated more than 119,000 products.
“Free has grown into something much bigger than any of us could have imagined,” Kenzie Blackwell said.
And every little bit counts.
A $3.50 donation buys a month of product for one person, according to the website, while a $42 donation will buy a year of product for one person.
Blackwell said donations can take many forms, including a financial donation or their Amazon wishlist. These means help the program provide specific items that are needed, rather than just what was given.
Blackwell said people often prefer pads to tampons because they last longer, whereas “using a tampon too long can introduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome.”
When you’re buying for yourself, maybe most people don’t think about that, she said, “because we’re privileged not to have to think about [it].”
And one day, she says, she hopes that will be true for everyone.