Taylor Whittington: The Mind Behind The Menstrual Mission

Most women know what to expect when they’re expecting their period. They pick up a box of pads or tampons to get them through the week. But what happens when you can’t afford pads? How do you handle a period when you’re homeless?

 

That’s where Taylor Whittington comes in. She is the one-woman powerhouse behind The Menstrual Mission, a community organization that collects menstrual products and distributes them as “period kits” to homeless and low-income support organizations. These kits feature an assortment of menstrual products, sanitizing wipes, a pamphlet on vaginal health and a greeting card.

 

Now a college sophomore, Whittington started this initiative in 2017, during her final weeks as a high school senior. She was inspired by the Refinery29 video “Is Menstruation a Social Justice Issue?”. Whittington also wanted to fill a charity gap that she saw. “I couldn’t find anywhere in NJ that would accept donations of individual products,” said Whittington, “so I decided to just do it myself." The Menstrual Mission is her main focus, but Whittington also volunteers as a domestic violence response liaison in her free time.

The Menstrual Mission has received over 16,000 products so far. Whittington holds a collection drive twice a year where she accepts everything from brand new boxes of products to unused items that people have left over. She puts collection boxes around stores and community centers in DC, as well as in her hometown of Princeton, NJ. As an alternative for those who can’t donate in person, Whittington set up an Amazon Wish List of products for The Menstrual Mission. Whittington also holds a yearly fundraiser which raises money to buy more products or items that were not donated.

 

Unlike other necessities, such as groceries or medical items, sanitary products are not tax exempt nor are they covered by government assistance programs. “If you're low-income or on the streets, you may have to choose between buying food and buying menstrual products,” said Whittington. Some people may try to steal them. Others resort to substituting tampons and pads with napkins, paper towels or even socks. “Or if they get one tampon, they’ll wear it for way too long. Because they don’t know when they’ll get more,” said Whittington, which puts already vulnerable women at risk for serious health problems.

 

The Menstrual Mission currently stocks their kits various homeless shelters and food kitchens, but the main organization they donate to is Thrive DC,  a support organization for homeless individuals. “It’s the one place I stock really consistently, so they’re never without some of our kits to hand out,” says Whittington. She brought them 280 kits last year. Thrive DC Volunteer Coordinator, Jack Read, enjoys working with Wittington and said the kits go quickly. “Getting that number of kits was just so crucial,” he said. “That’s 280 women who don’t have to go without having what they need when they have their periods.”

 

Whittington is currently applying to make The Menstrual Mission an government recognized non-profit. Although she does most of the work herself, Whittington appreciates all of the help she receives from family and friends. In the future, she hopes expand distribution around D.C., to include more items like underwear in her period kits and take in donations from major companies.

 

Learn more about how to help Taylor and The Menstrual Mission here and follow The Menstrual Mission on Instagram and Facebook @themenstrualmission. 

 

Photo Credit: Taylor Whittington