GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Lansing-based nonprofit that recently expanded to Grand Rapids is helping to provide menstrual products to homeless and low-income women in Michigan.

“Period products are expensive. They’re $10 for one box of tampons. If you’re living on a fixed budget, that really is a huge chunk out of your monthly payment, and it’s not something that women can turn off,” Lysne Tait, executive director of Helping Women Period, said.

In 2015, Tait and her friend read an article about the lack of products for homeless women and “were appalled.”

“We decided that we’d have a breakfast, invite 30 of our closest friends, raise some money, buy some things off of Amazon, give it to the local shelter and we’d be done,” she said.

The next week, the plans changed. After posting the event on Facebook on a Sunday, over 100 people were interested by Tuesday. Two days later, nonprofit paperwork was filed and Helping Women Period was born.

Fast forward to 2022, when the nonprofit distributed 1.14 million products across Michigan and acquired Be A Rose, a nonprofit group based in Grand Rapids.

Through monetary and product donations, the nonprofit provides free menstrual products to nonprofits and schools to distribute to those in need.

“When we started, we didn’t want to be another set of hands reaching out saying, ‘Here, let me help you.’ We thought we’d work with groups that already had that relationship started,” Tait said.

In Michigan, Tait explained that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 4 students can’t afford menstrual products.

“If people don’t have the product they need, they’re going to use other things that are not medically suggested: socks, T-shirts, they’ll use pads or tampons longer than medically suggested. That creates infection. And if you can’t afford period products, you can’t afford insurance, so they’re going to be a drain on the medical community,” she said.

In schools, many teachers and counselors provide products to students. And if no products are available, Tait said, students who are unable to afford products are more likely to miss school and fall behind academically.

“One of the things Helping Women Period is doing is we’re trying to work with legislators to get free products in schools,” she said. “…My concern is that some people are going to think that it’s too expensive because we talk about how expensive it is for the individual. But really, if you buy in bulk and if everyone is providing a little bit, it’s not going to be that much of an investment. Like, really, how much do you pay for toilet paper and we expect those to be in every restroom that we’re in.”

Helping Women Period is looking for more groups and schools to partner with. Anyone interested can contact the nonprofit here.

This weekend, Helping Women Period is at the West Michigan Women’s Expo at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids to share what it does. It will showcase various products that expo-goers can feel and learn more about in its Menstrual Product Petting Zoo.

“It’s really fun having people come over to tell me stories about when they first got their period and how embarrassed they were when they leak…” she said.

The nonprofit is always looking for donations, even half-used boxes.

“Because we work with a janitorial supply company, we can provide one person’s menstrual needs for an entire year for only $40,” Tait said.

For more information, visit the Helping Women Period website.