Women help women in Massachusetts through service project and donation

Stake women’s conference service project and donation allows Dignity Matters to help women and girls experiencing period poverty

More than 100 women and young women in the Blackstone Valley Massachusetts Stake spent a day making thousands of menstrual care kits for women and girls who are homeless or living in poverty in their area.

In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated $10,000 to Dignity Matters, a nonprofit organization which serves 14,000 women and girls each month in Massachusetts.

Church members and their friends gathered during a stake Relief Society women’s conference on Oct. 22 in Franklin and assembled the kits with sanitary products donated by the bishop’s storehouse in Worcester. Dignity Matters is now distributing the kits to a network of 165 Massachusetts nonprofits, including shelters, public schools, housing programs and food pantries. 

Maureen Winkler Belger with Dignity Matters said she was grateful the Church members in Blackstone Valley chose her organization for their 2022 women’s conference service project. Belger attended the women’s conference to introduce her organization to the attendees and accept the cash donation portion of the grant. 

“They packed enough pads and tampons to help women safely manage 2,500 monthly periods, and made a financial contribution that will purchase incontinence products for women at our local partners,” Belger said. “It’s incredible what women can do when we work together.”

Maureen Belger, left, with Dignity Matters, speaks to Blackstone Valley Massachusetts Stake women’s conference attendees on Oct. 22, 2022. Melanie Hansen, a stake member who served on the women’s conference committee, is on the right. More than 100 women at the conference assembled 2,500 menstrual kits for Dignity Matters to give to women and girls in need. | Lori Bulloch

People commonly associate period poverty with developing countries, but it is a significant, hidden and local issue in America as well — without menstrual supplies, many women and girls in need cannot go to work or school during their period each month.

Dignity Matters cited statistics saying 1 in 3 women living in poverty regularly miss work when menstruating because they cannot afford to buy period products. But government benefits such as SNAP and WIC cannot be used to purchase menstrual care.

Melanie Hansen, a member of the stake who served on the women’s conference committee, said the biggest impact for many women involved in the conference was a new awareness that period poverty exists in their area. 

“It’s a need that has been overlooked and it felt good to do something that really mattered,” Hansen said. “Sisters who spent time assembling kits couldn’t believe this is happening locally and it was nice to see them get behind the cause.”

Women in the Blackstone Valley Massachusetts Stake assemble menstrual kits for Dignity Matters to give to women and girls in need in their area on Oct. 22, 2022. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also donated $10,000 to the non-profit organization. | Jordan Byers

She said the service project is the beginning of something bigger in the stake and area. Dignity Matters is now listed on as an ongoing volunteer opportunity. JustServe is a website an app where organizations list their needs.

“Women expressed their desire for their Young Women and Relief Society groups to volunteer for Dignity Matters. It was a successful project, not only because of the products and a monetary donation, but because it created awareness of period poverty. We’re now in a position to help in the future,” Hansen said.

The theme of the two-day stake women’s conference was “Distinct, different, divine.” In addition to the service project, Relief Society women, young women and their friends were invited to participate in spiritual classes and workshops to strengthen their faith and “to discover how to embrace ‘the kingdom of God [that’s] within you’” (Luke 17:21).

A group of women — including three of their Primary-aged daughters — spent time finishing the project in the weeks following the women’s conference.

Rachael Hutchins, who also served on the women’s conference committee, said collaborating with Dignity Matters was especially meaningful because it gave women the chance to help other women.

“In our increasingly divisive world, service opportunities provide us a way to build bridges in our local communities as we unite with good people of various faiths and backgrounds in helping our fellow human beings,” Hutchins said.

“This project was a beautiful example of the gospel in action, and I felt honored to participate in it.”

Menstrual kits assembled by the Blackstone Valley Massachusetts Stake are delivered to the Dignity Matters office in Framingham, Mass., on Oct. 22, 2022. | Lori Bulloch
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