Chatham HS students collect over $14,000 worth of donated hygiene products

Posted 5/5/21

When four high school juniors first launched their donation drive for menstrual and hygiene products in Chatham County, they didn’t expect to receive many donations.

Chatham County, however, …

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Chatham HS students collect over $14,000 worth of donated hygiene products

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When four high school juniors first launched their donation drive for menstrual and hygiene products in Chatham County, they didn’t expect to receive many donations.

Chatham County, however, blew their expectations right out of the water: since March 14, the drive collected more than $14,000 worth of products — and not just period or hygiene products either.

“I mean, we expected a few things, but we didn’t expect it to be this big,” said Annika Lowe, a junior at the Chatham School of Science & Engineering and the drive’s head volunteer. “And I don’t even think we realized how big it was until we were counting everything at the end of the drive.”

“It’s crazy how much it was and how well it went,” added Geneva Yarger-Woolford, a junior at Jordan-Matthews High School.

In mid-March, Yarger-Woolford, Lowe and two more CSSE juniors began a donation drive to fight local “period poverty,” which refers to inadequate access to menstrual hygiene supplies. The idea came from a Chicago-based nonprofit called Her Drive, which organizes drives across the country to collect and distribute menstruation and general hygiene products to those who can’t afford them.

After finding the nonprofit’s work on TikTok last year, Lowe and her friends applied to start a “Her Drive” in Chatham County. Her Drive’s leadership team interviewed and gave them the green light, and the four juniors began the drive on March 14.

“We’re all very privileged, but we tried to put ourselves into other people’s shoes, seeing that they’re already struggling to pay taxes, to pay for food, for water, for shelter, and then on top of that they have to pay for period products every month,” Lowe told the News + Record in March. “... It’s such an overlooked issue that we wanted to help combat in any way possible, so we thought that by doing a Her Drive in Chatham County, we can at least help a few people out.”

A week into the drive, they’d collected about eight boxes’ worth of pads, tampons, pregnancy tests and other hygiene products — mostly from family friends and online contactless home pickups. By the end, Lowe said they’d received more than 200 bras, 8,000 period products, about 200 bottles of shampoo and conditioner, plus about 380 bars of soap.

“The main thing we got was pads and tampons,” said Yarger-Woolford. “We got an insane amount of those. We got deodorant — really everything that we have on our list and asked for, we managed to get.”

They even received items they didn’t ask for, Lowe added, including a bin full of baby bottles and two bins of baby clothes.

“Someone had dropped them off, and we weren’t just gonna not take them, but we were a little bit worried about who would accept them,” she said. “So it ended up working out because at the Women’s Center, they told us that they have two moms right now who have children about the size of the clothing that we got.”

Most donations went to the West Chatham Food Pantry in Siler City, according to Emma Dickerson, a CSSE junior and one of the drive’s organizers. They dropped off about 700 pounds of donations, she estimated — boxes which Yarger-Woolford said required three seven-seater cars to deliver.

“They were shocked with how much we had,” she said. “They thought that after the first (car), they thought we were done. They’re like, ‘Thank you so much.’ We’re like, ‘We have two more.’”

Other donations that the Food Pantry didn’t accept, including used clothes, went to the Women’s Center in Raleigh. The group also gave a bundle of period products to the Silk Hope Catholic Worker, a small homeless shelter, and Chatham Middle received about 75 makeup bag kits loaded with scrunchies, deodorant, toothbrush, soap, pads and tampons.

The goal, added Yarger-Woolford, was to help middle school students who might not have the products they need at home.

“You’re stuck at school and you’re on your period, or you’re in middle school, you might get your first one and you don’t have anything to deal with it,” she said. “So, we just really wanted to be able to do something for kids specifically to help them, especially if they’re like starting out. We know it can be a stressful time.”

The group also gave a few water bottle kits to the West Chatham Food Pantry.

“The water bottle kits were hard to put stuff into, but I think they were definitely a good idea, and we just put some pads and tampons in there,” said Angelina Parker-Lewis, a CSSE junior and drive organizer. “It was mainly for the water bottles because they’ll get that, too, but it’s just easy kits that they can hand out to people who need them.”

The group collected most donations via online contactless home pickups, which they invited people to schedule via a Google Form. After people scheduled home pickups, one of the four juniors would go pick up the items depending on the day.

“We had a few days where after picking up donations, we had our cars full to the top,” Lowe said. “I had two days where I had my entire back seat of a seven-seater car filled to the top, with just pickups.”

The group also received help from Northwood junior Ainsley Fauth, who brought in over $3,700 worth of donations from Briar Chapel.

“We thought it would just be a little bit, and she texts Annika, and she was like, ‘Do you have a big enough car to fit all this because, like, my van is full,’ and we were like, ‘Oh my God,’” said Yarger-Woolford.

“So she really helped us out a lot,” Lowe added. “... That day, I was driving home, I could barely even see out of the back after picking up everything that she got us.”

Lowe said they don’t yet know whether they’ll hold another donation drive. The decision ultimately lies with Her Drive’s leadership; if they do hold another, she said it probably wouldn’t be until next spring.

Each said the experience was rewarding, and they hope the donated items will help “insane amounts” of people in the short term.

“It felt so great to be able to donate that much to people who need it that badly,” said Yarger-Woolford.

“Counting and inventory took longer than expected and then getting into the centers took longer, but we finally have it all gone,” added Lowe. “Everything’s where it needs to be.”

Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at victoria@chathamnr.com.

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