ITHACA, N.Y. — An recently graduated Ithaca High School student led a charge this year to collect thousands of feminine hygiene products for needy women in the city.

Abby Cooper, 18, spent the last semester of her senior year interning at Planned Parenthood, where interns are encouraged to lead their own community projects.

Cooper, who was one of the co-presidents of the feminist group Strong Women Impacting Society,  said she’d recently heard about an organization in California that was collecting feminine hygiene products for women for women in need. So she proposed it at Planned Parenthood as something organizers might be interested in starting in Ithaca where there hasn’t been a drive solely for hygiene products in recent memory.

Provided photo

“I guess I wasn’t that surprised (that there wasn’t a feminine hygiene product collection)  because it wasn’t really something I had even thought about until learning about it,” Cooper said. “It kind of makes sense that it’s overlooked a lot.”

Devon Anderson,sexuality educator and transgender patient navigator at Planned Parenthood, said, “I think people, by and large, all over our country that have periods are not able to have access to very expensive products.”

She said that most facilities don’t put out open calls for tampons or maxi pads, and if they do, don’t collect nearly enough products to meet the demand for them by homeless or low-income women. SNAP (food stamps) also don’t cover the cost of feminine hygiene products.

So women who cannot afford products sometimes don’t go to school or work during their monthly periods.

Planned Parenthood kick-started Cooper’s project by purchasing several hundred tampons and sanitary napkins which were sorted into packages with 10-20 products in them. Then, Cooper and members of the Strong Women Impacting Society Club helped organize a drive at the high school were students were encouraged to donate.

In total, more than 600 care packages were made for women and distributed to resource centers, such as the Rescue Mission and Tompkins County Advocacy Center. The last of the products were delivered to facilities in mid-June.

Cooper said the high school group plans on continuing the collection efforts this year and has anecdotally been told that there has been an increase in donated products since the drive.

People can donate products to the Rescue Mission and Planned Parenthood year-round. For information about donating to the Advocacy Center, visit their website for contact information.