Written by Jory Gomes ’18
“Well to start, Portage County is a medically-underserved county that has high poverty rates, especially among women, menstrual hygiene products are super expensive, and there is a huge stigma attached to these necessary products.” This is what Katie Geric ‘19 said after I asked her why she and Shannon Enoch ‘19 started Pennies for Periods. Pennies for Periods is a program dedicated to raising money for, and assembling, menstrual hygiene kits for women in Portage County who couldn’t otherwise afford menstrual health projects. Geric and Enoch have spent their spring semester developing this program by raising money, courting sponsors, organizing, buying the products, and even assembling the kits with a group of their peers on Sugar Day—a day of service for all students at Hiram College.
In fact, it was because of Sugar Day that this project was started in the first place. Geric and Enoch first began developing the idea of a menstrual health focused project focusing on the underserved women of Portage County because of their conversations with Mary Taylor, Hiram College’s Service Coordinator. As they tried to come up with a service project with Taylor, it became apparent to Geric and Enoch that they could develop a project that spoke to issues that were close to their hearts. Geric is very interested in women’s health, as she wants to go on to be a women’s health provider, and because of this, and her knowledge that Portage was an underserved county, the focus of their project began to take form. Enoch saw the incredible importance of this kind of work, but because of her personal experience with breast cancer and her knowledge of the issue, she saw an opportunity for health education in their project. Through the confluence of their life experiences, future goals, and dedication to service, Geric and Enoch settled on the idea of making menstrual health kits for underserved people in Portage County.
On Sugar Day, they organized a group of thirteen of their peers and first-year students to assemble the kits and box them up for delivery. In each kit is a range of pads, tampons, liners, sanitary wipes, informational guides explaining how to use the products, and educational materials on common menstrual and women’s health issues like sexually transmitted diseases and how to do breast self-exams. The kits were then delivered to Freedom House for Women, a nonprofit in Akron dedicated to serving underserved women.
Geric and Enoch wanted to not only have an impact on menstrual health in a medically underserved community, but they want to use Pennies for Periods as a conduit for changing the way menstrual health is discussed. In conversation, they both lamented over both the capitalization and stigmatization of an entirely natural body process. Menstrual hygiene products are incredibly expensive, and unlike the proliferation of free condoms on college campuses and condom company websites, people who menstruate have to pay for all of the products themselves—which makes it even harder for impoverished women to get the products they need. Further, in their fundraising, they courted donations from Planned Parenthood of Greater Columbus and Aunt Flow, an organization dedicated to making menstrual health items accessible, but they wanted their name to stress the importance of small donations from community members.
Lastly, Geric and Enoch felt that it was important to do the project so they could try to de-stigmatize the discourse on menstruation. In the process of carrying out this project, they made many people uncomfortable because of the issue they were targeting. They had their tip jars rejected from certain locales because of what they were fundraising for, and they even had their posters torn down and trashed. These events reinforced for the two organizers that their project was having an impact, and made them feel passionate in their work. Their work has been a huge success thus far, and they want to continue to develop Pennies for Periods, as they hope to expand their focus and increase their impact.