Sarah Belle Miles on The Peach Coven’s Mission to Donate Menstrual Supplies to ATL Homeless Women

In Atlanta, it’s easy to forget that the person standing on the street corner asking for a little help has a story and a name. It’s easy to ignore their backstory and treat the symptom of homelessness with the bare minimum of food, clothing, water and a place to sleep. Recently, Founder and President of The Peach Coven Sarah Belle Miles unearthed another basic right of humanity that homeless women are frequently denied: menstrual supplies. This universal priority is such a no-brainer, and yet we often forget that homeless women are just that: women, with the same biological functions and menstrual care needs as everyone else.

For almost a year, The Peach Coven has raised awareness for this cause in Atlanta with donation bins, pad-and-tampon drives, DIY period kits and fundraising events to ensure that every homeless woman is able to retain her health and dignity every month. Inspired by this undertaking, we caught up with Sarah Belle Miles about how she started this charity and why art, activism and college communities are the most drawn to The Peach Coven mission.  

Image courtesy of Sarah Belle Miles.

Emme Raus: What inspired your mission to donate menstrual supplies to women in homeless shelters?

Sarah Belle Miles: In March of 2016, I was on my phone one day feeling the itch of “I’m not doing anything with my time to better my community and my world, what is wrong with me?” Then I read an article about this organization donating menstrual supplies to homeless in L.A. and because I grew up in Los Angeles, it really resonated with me because I know a lot about the homeless population there. So I decided to get involved and did some research to see what Atlanta organizations, charities or shelters were doing drives. A couple would do it quarterly, but no one specifically distributed menstrual supplies every month of the year and so that became our mission. It started with me doing a drive at Mammal Gallery, setting up a donation bin at my old work, HodgePodge Coffee, and creating this network on Instagram and Facebook. But then people started coming to me wanting to help and now three out about eight people who got involved in the beginning are directors on the board with me.

ER: Do you have any plans to become a non-profit?

SBM: We are graduating to a recognized non-profit and actually just submitted our application yesterday. We’ve had that in the works for a while and now we’re just waiting to hear back from the IRS, but I’ve been trying to operate it like a semi-traditional non-profit. I formed a board and directors and I run everything together. Everyone is still kind of falling into their responsibilities. Beyond that everything is still done through volunteers and we’re volunteers as well. We like to be ourselves and we want to create a platform that is very unique and accessible to all people by steering away from hyper-specifics. The only hyper-specific we have is that menstruation affects women, but we try to make it clear that we don’t just serve women but also transmen and the trans community in general.

ER: What do you and other Peach Coven members do to promote the cause?

SBM: Basically to get the word out I just use our social media pages. We also have flyers that I’ll pass out at events or put up somewhere. A lot of people are really open to contacting us though and they get involved by doing a drive and letting all their friends and colleagues know too. That’s sort of how we’ve done it and it’s been extremely organic. I would say we’re definitely a textbook grassroots group when it comes to organizing. Beyond that would not be us I guess. Technically we have four members, which is just the board, but we have three more individuals that regularly work with us around their school schedules. Everyone on the board has full-time jobs and we are hoping to grow eventually, but having to lead a group of three individuals is really different than having to lead a group of 12. This way, we can all share the email address and stay easily connected which I don’t think I’d be able to do as well if it was a larger group.

 

Image courtesy of Sarah Belle Miles.

ER: How much success have you had with The Peach Coven since its inception almost a year ago?

SBM: I think since we’ve started we’ve collected up to 60,000-80,000 products, and when I say products I don’t just mean the box itself but every item inside. So if it’s 32 pads, we do count 32 pads. As far as monetary donations I’d say maybe 2 to 3 grand tops. We don’t really focus on monetary donations as much, but when we do it’s great because it allows us to buy things that are harder to donate like brand new bras in a variety of sizes, brand new underwear or a ton of deodorants and shampoo. We had a great holiday season as far as donations went and by far the highest demand is pads. People also want to donate reusable stuff and that’s fantastic because I’m really pro reusable menstrual products. But we have to donate those to specific places because we could give cups to someone who has no idea how to use one. We will donate that stuff to live-in housing like City of Refuge, Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Atlanta Women’s Medical Center. I wish we could pass them out no problem, but it’s just not a norm of our culture yet and I think we can help change that.

ER: Which businesses and communities have you found to be the most responsive in promoting The Peach Coven?

SBM: We’re very heavy in the arts, activists and education communities. The most responsive was HodgePodge Coffee and I think it’s because they have a really strong community. Memorial was also successful given that they’re a tattoo parlor. We call those “pop-up bins” where we’ll put a bin in for about two months, but I’ve stopped doing them temporarily because I want to reevaluate that program. Our events are much more successful. We just had a fundraiser called Bloody Dignity which was a punk show at Star Bar where we ended up with two full bins and four full bags. We’ve had donation drives at Charis Bookstore, WonderRoot, Ladyfest Atlanta and multiple ones on South Broadstreet. We’ve also done drives at GSU, Emory, Agnes Scott and we’re about to have one at Georgia Tech. An individual from UGA did a very successful drive for us too and she agreed to start a chapter that’s very flexible with her schedule.

Period Kit items. Image courtesy of Sarah Belle Miles.

ER: What items are in a DIY period kit?

SBM: A period kit consists of 15 pads, 15 tampons, 20 panty liners and a pack of baby wipes that’s usually about 20 wipes a pack. It is one kit per person and they’re really fun to make and personalize. We’re going to start broadening our items in the kit with soap and deodorant as well as well as the traditional stuff. In the cold weather, we put in warm socks, warm clothes and maybe individual hand sanitizers and packs of tissues for cold and flu season. We also conduct a lot of our work based on recommendations and suggestions from interested members.

ER: Are there any occult or witchy themes in The Peach Coven? Your name and logo hints that there might be.

SBM: A coven is a collection of women helping women. We don’t have to be all women but that definition is what we’re rooted in. We don’t identify as Wiccan and all of us have our own personal beliefs and practices. It’s pretty standard for a board meeting to consist of us talking business as well as burning candles and sage and having crystals around. The term “coven” also refers to how working in menstrual care is still taboo. We are giving pads and tampons to people and we aren’t traditional. So we’ve embraced that and that angle has opened doors to other groups of untraditional people who are highly intelligent, full of love and ready to help. Some people ask if we ever have problems with the Christian community and we don’t really because we have to donate to shelters that are privately owned by churches and they know that we’re here to help. Also, when you think of peaches you think of Georgia and to me, they kind of represent a vagina too.

ER: What else do you like to do with your time? Do you have any hobbies or side jobs?

SBM: The Peach Coven for me is a full-time job. I’m definitely working on the Coven every day and it’s a huge part of my life, but I still need to have a full-time income so I work with Whole Foods in customer service as well as marketing. They really support my cause, so my goal is to help involve this corporate superpower with the work that I do at The Peach Coven in some way. I’m also a musician. I play guitar but I’m a singer primarily and I’m working on an album right now where the music has some roots in blues and jazz but is also very dreamy. I’m not a hermit but I’m just a little shy and a lone person, so I’ve been trying to work on my social life and be better about hanging out with people. The Peach Coven has been a great way to connect with others, because if I wasn’t working with them, I probably would never have met them.

Image courtesy of Sarah Belle Miles.

ER: Do you have any plans to celebrate the one year anniversary of The Peach Coven this March?

SBM: We’re actually going to have a musical event as well as a full moon gathering ceremony on the 12th of March. We’re partnering with Wild Moon Women who do what’s called New Moon Circle only for female-identifying individuals. It’s a guided meditation and I think they do some writing. It’s going to be a bonfire with a ceremony that’s probably going to be 30-45 minutes tops. Then for the rest of the evening we’ll have a collection of four bands and it’s going to be at the Casa Nova house which is a DIY place near Earth Shaking Music. We’re going to get the flyer out in the next couple weeks.

ER: How can collegiate women in Atlanta and Athens, Ga. support The Peach Coven?

SBM: The best way to spread the word is by sharing what we do, talking about what we do and trying to allow our work to become a more regular part of people’s live because that’s how we make it happen. It’s always on our radar to support the homeless community. Whenever I’m out driving, I’ll have water in my car and snacks. Keep in mind where you work and pay attention to the people you’re seeing around. We also encourage DIY drives, donating directly to us or coming to our events. For anyone who doesn’t live in Atlanta or Athens, it’s really easy to donate to your local shelter too. One thing I really hold dear is removing the stigma of homelessness because the second you start talking to them you realize just how special these people are. They are fantastic human beings who were short-changed, and it really puts it into perspective that this can happen to anyone.

This week, we will be receiving donations of feminine products in the Hub Tuesday-Thursday in the afternoons.  

Needs:  pads, tampons, socks, underwear, bras, kleenexes, deodorant and little hand sanitizer bottles.  

Any of these items you have, bring them on down!  See you in the Hub and let's see how many items we can donate by the end of the week!  

While you're at it, sign up for our newsletter or comment on one of our social media posts with your name, year and major at SCAD for the chance to win one of our Giveaways we will be having at the end of the week. 

Cheers!