Salt Lake City Mardi Bra drive provides ‘extra support’ for feminine hygiene priorities

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Mardi Gra may have have happened on Feb. 9th, but Mardi Bra will be happening for at least three months.

The Salt Lake City Mission, a non-profit inner-city church rescue mission ministry, will be partnering with an anti-poverty program to do a women’s hygiene drive called Mardi Bra. Local community members are being asked to donate a range of feminine products to the cause.

The women’s hygiene item drive is a part of a nationwide initiative. Mardi Bra is working in collaboration with an organization in New York City called Rock and Wrap it Up! inc, a social anti-poverty association.

Picture of Michael Varma of Magical Concepts, donating products at the Mardi Bra Anaheim event at Backstreet Brewery on February 9th. (Rock and Wrap It Up! inc)

In 2015, Rock and Wrap It Up! responded to the ever growing need homeless women had for feminine products. According to Mardi Bra’s website, the first Mardi Bra event was held on Feb. 17, 2015 at the Sofitel Hotel Beverly Hills. The event gathered over 500 items, which were given to Union Station Homeless Services of Pasadena and Home Girl Industries of Los Angeles.

Assistand director at Salt Lake City Mission Joe Vazquez said that more than 40 million women in the U.S. are living or on the poverty line. Utah alone includes over 100,000 women.

“More often than not, these types of hygiene products are not readily available to women, Vazquez said. “To most people, it doesn’t occur to donate feminine hygiene products and nonprofit organizations rarely include these costs in their budget. For women in poverty, the cost of feminine hygiene products is yet another burden on an already stretched budget.”

The Salt Lake City Mission says many of the women that visit the center for resources hope to find feminine products. Since it is not something they have been able to allocate in their budget, women are forced to pay for them themselves or use other materials.

According to Bryanna Serrano, an intern and administrative assistant at the Salt Lake City mission, when people don’t have access to feminine products, they will often use dirty t-shirts instead.

“These products can cost upwards of twenty bucks a month. This may not seem like a lot, but when you are living on a tight budget, or you don’t have any money at all, you can’t practically buy even a twenty-five cent tampon,” Serrano said. “This is definitely something that is needed, and I am glad we can help.”

Donna Lee Bowen, a professor of Political Science at BYU, believes it may not be an overall solution, but the genuine thought counts for something. “Doing feminine hygiene drives for women may not be a cause that will solve the problems of being in need in the long run, but it is a good cause for people who are in immediate need right now.”

The average donors to shelters are middle-aged women ages 30 to 40 according to Vazquez. He believes that moms at home resonate with the idea of struggling women who can’t provide feminine hygiene for themselves.

This year Rock and Wrap It Up! has reached out to various non-profits around the country to join the cause. According to a press release, the Salt Lake City Mission has volunteered to be the collection site for the Salt Lake area. The mission encourages those in the community to conduct drives for women’s hygiene items. Project managers say financial donations will also be accepted for the purchase of feminine hygiene items.

But mission plans to go beyond the customary Mardi Bra, single day event. They will be collecting both product and financial donations for Mardi Bra over a three month span from Jan. to March of 2016.

The hope for this project is to connect with more organizations over time. Every February and March the mission plans to do these drives for women in need. The products will be kept at the Mission so that women can collect them at any time. The products will be distributed to other non-profits in the area as well.

“So far, for the limited amount of time we have done this, it is getting great traction. This is one of the fastest embraced projects I have ever seen,” Vazquez said, “Rock and Wrap it Up! opened our eyes to what a large problem this is. I hadn’t realized just how terribly women needed these things before I began this program.”

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