For many, having enough feminine hygiene products each month is something taken for granted. But for women living in shelters or incarcerated in county jails, having enough supplies can be daunting.
Enter Jordana Nicole Dry and the newly formed group Pads for a Purpose. If she has her way, women in Northeast Oklahoma and eventually Southwest Missouri who find themselves in various situations will have access to sanitary napkins during their menstrual cycles.
“Every woman has a story about going to the bathroom and thinking, ‘Oh, crap,’ and then scrambling through their purse for a pad or tampon or a quarter,” Dry said. “It’s such an anxious feeling. Imagine feeling that every day, if you were in jail, homeless or living in a women’s shelter.”
The idea came about after Dry learned jailers at some county jails are forced to ration pads at times because of the number of pads available versus the number of women in jail. She also saw an Instagram video that discussed how homeless women often use trash in lieu of feminine products.
Both issues made Dry concerned. As a nurse, she said, she understands the importance of healthy feminine hygiene. Using a product for too long can cause toxicity to develop, and fashioning pads from trash brings chances for significant health issues as well.
This spring, Dry went out to purchase six packages of pads, delivering them to the Delaware County Jail.
“I wanted to do more,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do this alone every single month. A pack of pads can cost $2 at the store. I thought if 15 people could buy one $2 pack, we would have enough to donate.”
Out of the initial donation, a Facebook group called Pads for a Purpose was born. In the first two weeks, Dry gathered enough donations to take 1,109 pads still in their original packaging to the Ottawa County Jail. She primarily focuses on collecting pads because that is the required product for incarcerated women.
She has set up boxes at Grand Lake Nutrition in Grove and Affordable Bail Bonds in Jay as her initial drop-off locations for products. She hopes to find additional locations in Ottawa and Craig counties in Oklahoma as well as in Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties in Missouri.
For now, Dry collects pads for distribution in county jails. She hopes her next donation will benefit women in the Craig County Jail in Vinita, and eventually she hopes the initiative will grow to allow her to donate to area homeless shelters and women’s shelters.
“I wasn’t sure about the reaction because unfortunately, periods, pads and feminine products are still a taboo conversation for some,” Dry said. “But I’ve been surprised to see men — husbands of wives who have learned about the program — dropping off products.”
She prefers to collect only physical products at this time rather than raising funds to purchase items later.
“Our currency is pads,” Dry said. “I think it makes a person feel good to physically purchase an item. I want people to go to the store, stroll through the feminine hygiene shelves and physically purchase a package of pads. I want them to know they went out, and they did the work to purchase the pads. I’m just the messenger carrying the pads to the women in need.”
Dry likens the project to a food drive with a twist.
“Who thinks about giving women feminine hygiene products?” she said. “This is different but so essential. Feminine products are not a luxury; they are a right for us, an essential in life for every female.”