There When You Need it

How many times have you or a friend started your period and didn’t have a tampon or pad handy? Imagine that moment, that fear, that panic being your life with every period. The cost of feminine products seems to keep rising with the dubbed ‘pink tax’ applied for being ‘luxury’ items. Um, excuse me? I want to pay extra for a luxury designer bag, not my tampons. There is nothing luxurious about a period, especially the necessary hygiene products. However, nonprofit organizations, like Clutch, are working to provide these products to high and middle school aged girls who cannot afford them. Not only are they just handing out pads and tampons, they are distributed in fashionable small bags to be discreet and reduce possible embarrassment. Here at Her Campus Murray State, we fell in love the moment Clutch was imagined, so we spoke to the founder, Murray native, Kristen Farley*:

(Photo by Clutch on Facebook)

1. How did you come up with the idea for Clutch?

My sister Shannon and I were talking about how I needed an internship to make my resume pop when applying for jobs. While looking the internship opportunities over, none of them were serving the community and making the impact I wanted. So, Shannon suggested I make my own internship, thus Clutch was born.

2. Did you always know you wanted to start an organization like this, or was it more of a lightbulb moment?

I always knew that I wanted to serve the community, but I never knew in what way specifically. So, when Clutch began to form, there was a lightbulb moment of "Oh, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life". It was eye opening and my life hasn't been the same since.  

3. Walk us through the process of Clutch, how do the feminine products end up to the girls in need?

We get most of our donations from generous community members, either directly to me or they drop them off at one of our 3 donation locations. They are stored until we use them for Packing Parties, or we use the products intermittently to make small restocks for Clutch Hutches. We do a check-in at our eight participating schools once a week to assess needs, and drop off product in Clutch Hutches when needed. When we drop off, we also check to see if clutches have gotten returned and need to be refilled.

4. Are you running Clutch by yourself, or do you have a good support system, at least here on campus, to help out?

I mainly run Clutch by myself, but I have a network of volunteers for when I need something done I don't have time for/out of my area. We have County Coordinators that check the Clutch Hutches for the Mayfield, Graves County, and Carlisle County schools. I supply them with clutches, and they refill them. I also have great support from Portrait Church and LoveMKY for volunteers and coordination of Packing Parties. The MSU campus has also been very supportive of Clutch. Dr. Crofton and Dr. Cobb in the English Department, as well as Dr. Lindner in the History Department have been instrumental in the beginning stages of Clutch and how to get this started.  

5. Is it weird having people randomly handing you feminine products? (Writer’s note: I am guilty of handing Kristen fistfuls of tampons in the middle of class.)

Not at all! I love and support it. I love my daily bouquets of tampons. It makes people around me realise the stigma and how we should not be afraid to talk about our periods. It has opened up many dialogs with classmates and professors about Clutch, how they can help, and how they can end period stigma.

6. How many clutches have you made and donated so far? Do you have an estimate on how many girls you’ve helped?

It's hard to estimate. At our first packing party, we made 275 clutches to disburse to schools. Since then, I have probably made about 100 more independently. So, I'd say around 400 clutches so far. As for students, I don't check and see which girls use clutches, so there may be repeat girls using clutches. We service 8 local schools, which have a combined population of about 5,000, assuming half are girls or women, thats about 2,500 in schools. As for the Gentry House, we serve all women and girls who come through, and we currently have 4 families housed.

7. The bags the feminine products are delivered in are pretty cute, what’s your success rate on having the bags returned to be filled again?

We have about a 25% return rate, which is to be expected. I'd like to be able to reuse every bag possible, but if they are getting the essential feminine product that they need, that's all that matters.

8. Did you expect the success you’ve had so far?

The success of Clutch has only come from the tremendous support the community has shown. I wanted Clutch to succeed, obviously, but I never expected it like this. The community of Western Kentucky has been so generous with their donations of time and product. It has been an extremely humbling experience.

9. What is the future of Clutch, where do you go from here?

Clutch will hopefully continue to grow. Currently, we are fundraising to become an official 501(c)(3) non-profit so we can apply for grants in the future. I'd like to start serving parts of Tennessee by the end of 2018.

 

To help propel Clutch’s efforts:

Gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/feminine-products-for-education

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clutchwhenyouneedit/?ref=search

 

*Some answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.