Graphic by Alex Silber

Lehigh Valley Period Project aims to destigmatize menstrual health

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The Lehigh Valley Period Project is a volunteer and donation-based organization that collects physical period products and monetary contributions to help menstruating people in the Lehigh Valley. 

Sarah Pammer, founder of the project, originally created the organization as a hypothetical project for her rhetoric class at East Stroudsburg University, where she is a graduate student studying communications. She said she completed the assignment last spring but upon reflection realized it was something she could bring to life. 

Pammer said the project is not only about collecting donations for period products, but is also geared toward eliminating the negative connotations surrounding menstrual health as well as the idea that only women experience periods. 

“I would love to help make the menstrual health world more inclusive and not focus so much on women, because not all women have periods, and not all people who have periods are women, so it’s really important to me as well to make this space more inclusive,” Pammer said. 

Pammer said the project is still in its grassroots stages. She is working locally, collecting donations and distributing them to organizations in need. 

Right now, Pammer is working with the Kutztown University Student Pantry, based in Berks County. The organization consists of two food pantries: one for students and one for the community. She is also partnering with Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley — a homeless shelter for victims of domestic violence — and Valley Youth House.

“I grew up in Bethlehem, and I think the Lehigh Valley holds a special place in my heart, so I really wanted to help out my community directly,” Pammer said. “As someone who identifies as a woman, I know that having a period is not a fun experience, but society doesn’t make it any easier for us with the stigma and a lot of the taboos that even in the U.S. still surround having a period.” 

Chloe Marks, a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Involvement at Kutztown University, said she was excited to receive an invitation from the Lehigh Valley Period Project for a partnership because the Kutztown Student Pantry’s stock of period products is always low. This has presented challenges because these products are an essential need for many people who come to their pantries, she said.

Marks said focusing on menstrual health is much harder for lower-income people who experience periods. 

“Even when you shop for it, you might kind of hide it, so imagine going to a pantry for it and you can’t find it and have to ask someone to help you out,” Marks said. “I think for some students, that can be embarrassing to ask for help in that area and I think (Lehigh Valley Period Project) in trying to gather donations is also promoting that menstruation is a natural, awesome thing that people should be proud of and help each other with.”

Andrea Search, the community outreach director at Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley, said people like Pammer and organizations like the Lehigh Valley Period Project help immensely in relieving financial stress for their organization. 

“It’s important for our organization because we can’t do everything by ourselves, we need the help of the community,” Search said. “We are constantly worried about not having enough products or money to go out and buy things, so these donations allow us to take the monetary donations that we get to be spent on services instead of buying extra products. It helps us use our money wisely.”

Pammer is still in the donation-collection phase for the Lehigh Valley Youth House.

So far, the project has collected a total of 5,764 period products, which consists of 1,882 pads, 1,459 tampons, 2,359 liners, 28 individually packaged boxed wipes, 13 packages of over-the-counter pain relief and 11 menstrual discs. The project has also collected $833 in donations. 

Pammer donated 749 pads, 589 tampons, 893 liners, 10 boxes of wipes and 8 bottles of pain relief to the Kutztown Student Pantry. 

She also donated 736 pads, 737 tampons, 875 panty liners, 18 boxes of wipes and 11 bottles of pain relief to Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley.  

Pammer said what just started out as a school project became something much greater and more impactful than she could’ve expected. She struggles working alone on this project and said it’s hard for her to reach out and ask for help when she needs it because she’s a shy person. 

However, she doesn’t want her fears to overcome the potential of this project — she doesn’t want “to become too overwhelmed to the point where the project just fizzles out.” 

Pammer said seeing how much her efforts have resonated with people is what motivates her to continue working hard. 

“Personally, it makes me feel really optimistic about the world because we’re in a bad place right now, so to see people come together like this is incredible,” Pammer said. “I wake up every day and I’m super stoked to talk to new people from all different backgrounds and experiences.”

Pammer dropped off her donations to the Kutztown Student Pantry and the Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley this past week. She is continuing to collect both physical and monetary donations and hopes to expand her client base by finding a way to get these products to people who aren’t involved in the organizations she works with. Pammer said she hopes to get programs in elementary schools to defeat the menstrual health stigma before it causes problems for people with periods.

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