For women under financial stress, feminine hygiene products are often the last item they’re able to spend their money on. A year marked by the economic crunch brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated that issue.
The Junior League of Schenectady and Saratoga Counties has made distributing feminine hygiene products to those in need a core issue since 2014, and is hoping to lead a last-minute push to make more donations using a new outlet.
When the federal government passed the CARES Act for COVID-19 relief in March, it allowed for menstrual care products like tampons and feminine hygiene pads to be eligible for purchase through flexible spending accounts and health saving accounts. The Junior League is soliciting donations for feminine hygiene products purchased with unused HSA or FSA funds that need to be spent by the time the year ends on Thursday, which will be sent out via the organization’s Distributing Discreet Dignity program.
The need has increased this year, with the Junior League distributing “carloads and carloads” of products obtained through a variety of sources.
“We’re getting phone calls from shelters, saying, ‘Do you have anything you can bring to us?’” Junior League president Denise Murphy McGraw said. “What we end up doing is a lot of our members go out and buy these out of their own dollars. We don’t have a big budget for this, but people are willing to help in some small way and we get them off to people as quickly as we can.”
The Distributing Discreet Dignity program launched in 2014 as a way to get hygiene products into the hands of women who often can’t afford them.
Murphy McGraw said the Junior League works with local domestic violence and homeless shelters to find young women, teenagers or women at “a later stage of their lives” who put their money toward supporting their families.
“If they have a few dollars, they put it toward their children, buying food or something for their children,” she said. “Feminine hygiene products are often the last thing that they spend money on for themselves.
“We find a community need and we try to address it in an efficient and cost-effective way. This one was a no-brainer. It was women helping women.”
In prior years, The Junior League has held a number of events to support the program over the years, but the eligibility of HSA/FSA funds to be spent on these products opened up a new avenue that Murphy McGraw believes will help fill the need.
“A few people started calling us in the past couple weeks, saying they had some money left in their HSA and they want to be able to spend it, can they go to the store and buy some product and drop it off?” she said. “I was happy to say yes. It took off from there. It really came from people who were already trying to help in some way, and now we’re just trying to spread the word. If you have $10, $15 left in your HSA and have to spend in before Thursday night, we are happy to take the products off their hands.”
Anyone who purchases pads or tampons and is looking to donate them can drop them off at either 1177 Rosehill Blvd. in Niskayuna or 116 Park Place in Schenectady, or reach out to Murphy McGraw at [email protected] or 518-339-4535 to arrange a drop-off or pick-up location.