According to Planned Parenthood, one in four women struggled to purchase period products within the past year due to lack of income. In spite of this, according to the Period Poverty Program, there are zero state and federal safety net programs that can be used to purchase period supplies.
The Dignity Project is a local nonprofit organization aiming to fight period poverty in the Bloomington community by creating increased awareness about period and hygiene poverty. They have raised thousands of dollars and donated hundreds of hygiene products to local shelters. The organization’s founding members are high school seniors who will attend IU next year and hope to continue the Dignity Project on campus.
Co-president and Bloomington High School South senior Sydney Melvin founded the Dignity Project in the summer of 2019 after seeing a need for hygiene products in the community.
“After doing some research about the needs of the Bloomington community, I noticed the homeless and low-income community really lacked hygiene products, specifically period products,” Melvin said.
Melvin enlisted the help of her friend and now co-president, Bloomington High School North senior Mary Hobson, shortly after coming up with the idea. Melvin and Hobson made the Dignity Project an official school club, and they were each in charge of a chapter at their respective high schools. After outgrowing the confines of a high school club, the Dignity Project earned the title of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2020.
“When Sydney brought the idea of the club to my attention, I was on board immediately,” Hobson said. “I know we have many programs and shelters for those experiencing houselessness in Bloomington, but there is so much overpopulation, so resources are pretty scarce.”
The Dignity Project donates products to four local shelters: Middle Way House, Stepping Stones, New Hope for Families and the Shalom Center. Most recently, they held a Valentine’s Day fundraiser at Mirth Market, a local boutique located in Fountain Square Mall.
The Dignity Project is passionate about inclusivity in their donations, Hobson said. This past summer, the organization held a Black and textured hair product drive in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Most of the shelters we support don’t get donations for Black hair care products,” Hobson said. “We wanted to help women of color while also spreading awareness and offering support.”
Melvin and Hobson agree that the best part of the Dignity Project is seeing the joy their donations bring to the people they benefit.
“The best part is hearing from all the people and administrators at the shelters,” Hobson said. “Everyone is so excited when we drop off donations.”
Part of the mission of the Dignity Project is to make conversations such as period poverty less taboo. Harrison Wright, Bloomington High School South senior and Dignity Project treasurer, said that’s why joined the organization.
“I’m the only guy in the group,” Wright said. “As someone who has lots of sisters, periods were never something that bothered me, because it was always normal. I want to show other guys that periods aren’t gross, and that women don’t have to go through it alone.”
Hobson said just because someone hasn’t experienced poverty or having a period, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t care about this cause.
“There are so many things we take for granted that aren’t guaranteed,” Hobson said. “With a little help and a little education, people can see it’s something we all need to focus on. Everyone deserves to have dignity and pride to feel and look their best.”
With Melvin, Hobson and Wright all committed to attend IU next fall, the Dignity Project will come to college with them. They hope to register as a club at IU and expand their connections with similar groups such as the Sexual Health Advocacy Group.
“Mary and I will continue as co-presidents at IU,” Melvin said. “We’re really looking forward to incorporating into IU and adding new members and partnerships.”