-HappyPeriod group seeks donations for holiday season

Collected period products distributed by -HappyPeriod North Country. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Formed in January of 2020 in affiliation with the larger international organization and charity known as -HappyPeriod, -HappyPeriod North Country started locally with just a Facebook page and an Amazon wishlist and has grown into a social movement spanning the tri-county area and beyond. The local organization is now seeking donations for the holiday season in order to keep supplying period products to those in need.

The organization’s first donation went to the Community Action Planning Council’s food pantry the following month. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit and things shut down, -HappyPeriod North Country started adding the products to local blessing boxes for those in need.

Tanya M. Roy, a literacy coach for the South Lewis Central School District, is one of three founding members of -HappyPeriod North Country. Ms. Roy connected with two other local women in Watertown, Colleen Mayne Butler and Krystin Labarge, after seeing a -HappyPeriod collection box in a Syracuse bakery while Christmas shopping with her daughters in 2019.

“This is one of the most highly rated needs, one of the most highly rated products that you can get at a food pantry because they’re not always there; they’re not always available,” Ms. Roy said. “You can always go to the food pantry and get macaroni and cheese or cereal, but you are not always guaranteed that you will have access to period products there. We know that we are doing good by working together to provide this product, even if we never get to hug the person who receives it on the other end.”

Ms. Roy said -HappyPeriod is founded upon an idea that is three pronged. The first is anyone who is in need should have access to period and menstrual supplies for free. The second prong to what they believe is that period products are expensive, and it is expensive for a couple of reasons. One of those is the pink tax — the fact that products created specifically for women and people who identify as female are more expensive to begin with, and then they are taxed on top of that. The third piece is people should be able to have conversations about the need for products openly and honestly, and there should not be any stigma to talking about menstruation or the fact that period poverty exists.

“Collecting and redistributing, we help attack the first two prongs of that and then as we grow, we have more people that volunteer with us and donate to us and that we can reach out to, we’re working on that third prong of destigmatizing,” Ms. Roy said.

The movement is connected in the belief that period products are a necessity like food or running water — not a luxury. In its first year, the organization donated 300 bags with 28 products each for a total of 8,400 individual menstrual and feminine hygiene products collected and donated. Though it started just in Watertown, the organization has expanded to encompass the tri-county area, and has collection sites set up in each county.

Expanding from its grassroots beginning with the three women, -HappyPeriod North Country now has more partners. Among the donation sites in Jefferson County is the Victims Assistance Center. Donations to the organization are split between its shelter and Emelia’s Closet. Named after the furriest member of the VAC staff, Emelia, a mix between golden and labrador retriever, the goal of the closet is to provide emergency resources to victims in the region.

-HappyPeriod North Country is always looking for places to leave their year-round donation boxes. Right now, there is a box in the Flower Memorial Library in Watertown and one at Forest Finds in Lyons Falls. Anyone in the community who has an idea for a place to leave a donation box is encouraged to message the organization on Facebook, on the “We are -HappyPeriod North Country” page, or send an email at happyperiodnorthcountry@gmail.com.

“We have a core of dedicated givers and people who, whenever we send out the call, will go ahead and donate, or they will get ahold of us to see if there’s a way that they can help,” Ms. Roy said. “We really were lucky that first year our community did come out in force — every week we had Amazon boxes arriving from people who were glad to hear what we were doing. We have had people who have donated not only from outside our community, but outside of New York state. Our goal moving forward is to remain more visible so that we can continue to grow what we’re able to give. Our ultimate goal is that no one will ever have to go in need in Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence counties.”

In addition to donations, -HappyPeriod North Country is always looking for people who want to help. According to Ms. Roy, the organization is hoping that this holiday season it can have its first public packing party to bring strangers and friends together in a location where they will spend time packing products and decorating little notes to kind of bolster the people who need them and to let them know that they’re not alone.

-HappyPeriod North Country collected more than 8,000 period products last year for redistribution and hopes to bring in even more this year. When donations come in, they can come in one of two ways: either physical donations dropped off at a collection site, or things ordered for the organization from its wishlist. Once donations come in, packing parties are held to divvy up the products and pack them into one gallon bags with the amount of product generally needed for one month.

Ms. Roy said she hoped with the organization’s collections over the holiday season, community members will be reminded that -HappyPeriod North Country exists and the need for period products is still around.

“We see the need and as we like to say, we need to work together to do the most good,” Ms. Roy said. “If you are someone who purchases product for yourself, what we like to say is when you buy one, just go ahead and buy two. That’s a simple thing people can do and it could have a real impact.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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