March 6, 2017 by Meeghan Kane — As part of our ongoing series featuring Southern women changing the world for the better, we asked the co-founders of Greenville, South Carolina’s Homeless Period Project to answer a few questions about their organizing and activism. Stephanie Arnold and Sharron Phillips talked about their SC roots, their families, and the overwhelming support of their community in getting basic period supplies to the girls and women who need them. Read on and find out how you can help.
Tell us about yourselves.
Stephanie: I was born and raised in Easley, SC, to loving and hard-working parents. Neither parent graduated from high school, and I am the first in my family to graduate from college. I graduated from Clemson University and worked as a paralegal for the last 22 years. I recently decided to become a “stay at home mom” to my children Abigail and Evan.
Sharron: I was born in Anderson, SC. My brothers and I were raised by my mom who struggled financially to support us. During my formative years, we lived in government-subsidized apartments where everyone was poor. The elementary school we attended was made up of kids with the same economic backgrounds as us; most of us were free lunch kids. I remember my mom having a full-time job along with two part-time jobs to make ends meet – without a complaint. She encouraged us to work hard and get an education; to never use the excuse of where we came from as to why we didn’t succeed. I have worked for Greenville County for the past eight years, and I’m a proud mom of my son, Champion, and my daughter, Isabella.
What is the Homeless Period Project?
The Homeless Period Project is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides homeless and underemployed women/girls free basic menstrual hygiene products.
What motivated you to get started?
After reading a Huffington Post article in May 2015 about a similar group in the UK, we called our local shelters and found that feminine products were the least donated items to our local women’s shelters. Some women go without these items each month and are forced to find alternatives to meet their needs. We not only want to bring awareness to this issue but also help end the stigma. Menstruation shouldn’t be something we are embarrassed of or ashamed to talk about.
In June of 2015, we had our first “Period Party.” We asked for donations of maxi pads, tampons, liners, and individually wrapped feminine wipes. We created the event on Facebook and invited anyone and everyone to make donations and come to the event to put together period packs. That one-time event, turned into our project.
Since June of 2015, many volunteers have hosted Period Parties, collecting donated items and creating period packs which are given to women on the streets and shelters. Since its inception, The Homeless Period Project has provide period packs to free medical clinics, school nurses of Title I schools, the American Red Cross, resettled refugees throughout South Carolina, the Julie Valentine Center, food banks and backpack programs. These packs provide a woman/girl, the necessary items to last them through a cycle. To date we have donated over 16,000 period packs. This has all been possible through the kindness and generosity of the people within our communities. We are now located throughout South Carolina, the Western Carolinas, Augusta, GA, Savannah GA, and Stamford, CT. We have helped start a project in Seattle, WA, and assisted in planning an event in New Hampshire, Iowa, New York, and one happening next month in Orange County, CA.
Who are your allies and supporters?
We have been moved by the strong support of other women in our community. We see women from all walks of life at our parties. We often say that when a group of women come together, great things are accomplished. We are seeing that with this project.
Who inspires you?
We are inspired by the people who give selflessly to help others. We also get inspiration from people who have been dealt a bad hand in life but never give up. No matter how life knocks them around, they make a decision to work even harder and still show kindness to others.
I have a full-time job and Stephanie still has young children at home, so with the project growing at a fast pace, it can be a challenge to juggle everything. However, when you are passionate about what you have been called to do, it doesn’t feel like stress. It’s a welcomed challenge.
What’s on the horizon for the Homeless Period Project?
We are excited to see what the journey will be for our project in 2017! Due to the great need, HPP must continue to grow. We’re currently seeking company sponsorships and applying for grants to help us meet these needs.
How can folks help?
Individuals or groups can help in many ways! Someone can help by just sharing our post on social media, making donations, hosting a Period Party and/or joining our team.