Rallying for Girls in WNC

MANNA, Project Dignity of WNC, Feeding America, and Always® Partner on a Special Donation

Traditionally, MANNA FoodBank’s inventory flow is almost exclusively food. But when the community lacks access to the most fundamental needs, like groceries, it is more than likely that people lack access to other grocery basics, like toilet paper and personal care items.

Project Dignity of Western North Carolina, Inc. is a local nonprofit organization working to provide menstrual feminine hygiene products to women and girls in our region who do not otherwise have access. Project Dignity WNC provides thousands of period products every month to girls in Buncombe and Henderson County schools. Not being able to afford period products is a huge issue for women in Western North Carolina, especially when they and their families are already struggling to afford the basics of food and shelter.

Apart from the serious health issue of being forced to use other non-hygienic materials to deal with their monthly period—like old socks, rags, and even old newsprint or plastic bags—lacking access to period products creates social embarrassment and stigma, sidelining girls from the daily school activities that are vital for setting the foundation for their futures. In lengthy research studies, Procter & Gamble (P&G) Always® found “one in five girls in the US have missed school due to lack of period protection.”

“I have had kids come to me saying they need to go home because they’ve started their period and have no supplies,” said Shelly Roeder, a social worker at Erwin High School.

Barbara Morgan, Founder and President of Project Dignity WNC, started the organization in January 2017.

“We dedicated ourselves in the beginning to girls in schools because we knew that trying to stay in school with no feminine products available, combined with the bullying in today’s schools, would limit the odds of these young girls staying in school and graduating.”

After being in the schools for one year, the Project Dignity team received a letter from Matthew Gruebmeyer, Director of the Henderson County Student Services, stating that the schools were witnessing the impact of the products: Girls were staying in school.

A National Donation Comes to WNC

Project Dignity saw a P&G Always ad in the New York Times Sunday edition in August 2018 stating that Always® teamed up with Feeding America, a long-standing partner, on a mission to donate 15 million pads to keep girls in school. Project Dignity started looking for some local Feeding America partners and found out MANNA is a member of Feeding America. Knowing the impact this could have—and having reaching out to P&G and having little success—Morgan and her team connected with Jen Waite, the Food Sourcing Director at MANNA, hoping to get this much-needed product into WNC.

After a few weeks of phone calls and emails, Waite contacted the Project Dignity team with the great news: They would be receiving a huge donation of 15 pallets of products from Always®!

This donation consists of almost 300,000 individual products, and will be distributed to girls in need through the schools that Project Dignity serves here in WNC. In fact, this large donation enables Project Dignity to expand their program to more schools.

“So many students are impacted by Project Dignity,” said Molly Pitman, social worker at Enka Middle School. “These resources make students feel like someone understands them.”

“Students who would otherwise have to go home and change are able to stay in school because we have these products,” said Ami Greene, school social worker at T.C. Roberson High School. “This allows them to focus on their classes rather than the embarrassment of stained clothing.”

“We are so grateful to Procter & Gamble and Feeding America for their incredible responsiveness and generosity in helping Project Dignity provide these crucial supplies for girls in need in WNC,” said Waite. “This project has been very rewarding to be a part of.

“With the help of Always® we have been able to reach so many girls this school year and provide them with the period products so many of them need,” said Catherine Davis, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Feeding America. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership so together, we can continue to improve the lives of families across the country and help more girls gain the confidence they need to stay in school.”

Morgan was emotional when she saw the pallets of product from Always® on the dock at MANNA’s warehouses.

“Project Dignity WNC is thrilled to have received these products,” Morgan said. “We are rapidly expanding the counties we serve. We can now increase the number of women shelters we serve since we have the Always products dedicated to the schools.”

MANNA proudly partners with nonprofits across WNC, and Project Dignity is an excellent example of what we can all make happen together through connecting for good: hope, dignity, and providing access to the community’s basic needs…period.

About MANNA FoodBank

MANNA FoodBank is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving Western North Carolina since 1983. As an accredited member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, the mission of MANNA FoodBank is to involve, educate, and unite people in the work of ending hunger in Western North Carolina. MANNA serves over 200 community-based non-profit food assistance partner agencies in 16 Western North Carolina counties and distributed 18.2 million pounds of food in 2017/2018. MANNA FoodBank is a nonpartisan organization committed to sharing facts and information about issues related to hunger in Western North Carolina and how they affect those we serve. For more information, visit MANNAFoodBank.org, or call 828-299-FOOD.

About Feeding America

Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

About Project Dignity of WNC

Project Dignity of Western North Carolina, a 501(c)(3), was formed in 2017 to provide feminine hygiene products to homeless, low-income, and domestic abuse victims in Buncombe and Henderson counties. 

Since January 1, 2018 we have supplied nearly 5,800 women with products. Project Dignity heavily relies on donations of cash and products to achieve our mission. Our focus is educating the community on our clients’ need for feminine hygiene products. We have established coalitions with local businesses as donation “drop-off” sites to make product donation convenient. We have also established an alliance with the Hendersonville Kimberly Clark plant from which we receive product donations on a semi-annual basis. Our board and volunteers work tirelessly on soliciting donations and presenting to local groups in order to fulfill our mission. Visit www.projectdignitywnc.com or find us on Facebook.