Polka Dot Powerhouses collects hygiene products for women in need

BREMERTON — “Let’s talk about periods.”

Elaine Turso, Bremerton-based photographer, has, with the help of her professional women’s networking group Polka Dot Powerhouse, organized a drive to collect pads, tampons, washcloths, panties and other feminine hygiene-related products throughout Kitsap County.

Turso, the managing director of the Polka Dot Powerhouse Bremerton chapter, said the reason the group chose this particular cause to support was because their eyes were opened recently to the travesty homeless women and women in third-world countries have to face surrounding their menstrual cycles and lack of hygiene products.

She said the Salvation Army approached her Soroptimist International group and said that tampons are one of the most needed products they look for.

“I can’t even imagine what it feels like, for people who have to choose between buying a meal and buying a $7 box of tampons,” Turso said. “I feel like this is such a travesty. Let’s help women and girls who are going through this issue.

“It’s not something we should be ashamed about, it’s a natural part of life,” she added. “I just think we need to change the stigma that’s surrounding (periods).”

There are four drop-off locations throughout Kitsap County:

n Port Orchard: Twice Around the Closet, 585 Bethel Ave. No. 101.

n Bremerton: Hot Java Cafe, 409 Pacific Ave. No. 201.

n Silverdale: Catie’s Creations, 3255 NW Lowell St.

n Poulsbo: Curvy Q.T. Consignment, 19062 WA 305, No. 203.

They are accepting donations of tampons; maxi pads; girls panties that are not white (sizes girls 10 through adult small), solid colors only; and washcloths that aren’t white. They’re collecting donations for this drive until Dec. 19.

The donations will benefit the Salvation Army and Days for Girls, which is an international 501(c)(3) nonprofit working toward ensuring “every girl and woman in the world (has) ready, feasible access to quality sustainable hygiene and health education by 2022,” according to their website, www.daysforgirls.org.

“(A woman with Days for Girls) invented this fabric pad that allows girls in third-world countries to not have to miss school because she got her period,” Turso said. “Currently, she would have to stay home and miss a week of school because they don’t have access to feminine hygiene … They’re not treated like how our girls are treated. They’re made to go hang outside with the oxen and they’re not allowed to be around the drinking water.

“There’s this stigma around a young girl having her period in third-world countries.”

Turso said the fabric pad that Days for Girls founded is “made out of quilters’ cotton and fleece,” which fold into a square and can be washed and reused for up to three years.

The Polka Dot Powerhouse Bremerton chapter is working with a Poulsbo-based Days for Girls chapter to make 200 hygiene kids to send to third-world countries in January.

“I’m hoping we’ll have enough donations that we’ll be able to give some to Coffee Oasis,” Turso said. “They have homeless teen girls that probably need access to these supplies, as well.”

Lauri Doty, a member of Polka Dot Powerhouse, said she started her period “very, very early.”

“I wasn’t homeless or anything like that, but it was really awkward,” Doty said. “I think that it’s really important for the girls to have access to these things that they obviously need.”

Tanna Martin, another member, said the drive is “women helping women.”

“It’s one of those things — I have to be honest — I had never thought about,” Martin said. “Whether here in our community, if you’re homeless and how you’re managing that, or in third-world countries.

“I’m a privileged person. I had never thought about what that would be like, and it breaks my heart. It’s that ‘ignorance is bliss’ aspect. I think it’s so important for us to reach out to others and give in ways that we can and just touch those lives. This is a simple, practical way that we can help other women.”

Turso said, “There are women out there who are struggling between buying feminine hygiene and food, and I’m like, ‘That’s not okay with me.’ You should never have to make that choice.”

She’s even thought about ways to start spreading the reusable kits to the homeless population here in Kitsap County.

“We’re going to help them locally and we’re going to help them in third-world countries,” she said. “There’s a need. Let’s fill that need.”

Turso said the community response to this drive has, so far, been fantastic.

“I’ve posted it a few times on my own personal Facebook, and people are sharing it and people are just asking how they can help,” she said.

People with feminine hygiene products they will never use after hysterectomy surgeries or menopause are reaching out to donate their own products, which will never expire. Other people are hosting or looking to host parties where attendees can put together the reusable kits to send to third-world countries. Turso even said an old friend donated a large sum of money, which she took to Costco to buy tampons.

“People are willing to help, and that’s what I love about our community,” Turso said. “When we really need it, our community is there for us. It’s one of the things I love about living here.”

Find out more about Polka Dot Powerhouse at www.polkad otpowerhouse.com, or view the Kitsap chapter’s Facebook page at goo.gl/spvesi. Learn more about Days for Girls at www.daysfor girls.org.

Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpub lishing.com.

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