Many women don’t think twice about the luxury of being able to buy feminine hygiene products. But considering these products a luxury — which the state does — is part of the problem, and one reason why many women cannot afford them.
Tammi Kollinger founded Take Charge. Period. after noticing a homeless woman at Belt Line Road and the Dallas North Tollway: rather than offer her food or money, Kollinger gave the woman tampons.
Around that same time, she saw a picture on Facebook of an empty box intended for feminine hygiene products at the Jewish Family Services pantry. Kollinger decided she needed to find a way to get the community talking about menstruation.
Like most states in the U.S., Texas levies sales tax on tampons, sanitary napkins, and other feminine hygiene products. In general, states make exemptions to taxation on tangible personal property for “necessities” — which means that feminine hygiene products, which are not exempted, are considered non-essential, or “luxury” items. Increasingly, activists are criticizing the tax for disproportionately affecting women, and for placing an undue burden on poorer women specifically.
Progress can be made harder, though, when the issue is still sometimes considered taboo. Now, Kollinger is part of a new tradition of activists fighting to break that taboo.
“I started doing a lot of research, and some of the things that I’ve learned in regards to what happens with menstruation around the world is nauseating, depressing, and just unacceptable,” Kollinger said. “But there are just as many awful things happening right here in Dallas. With the knowledge that I gained and knowing on top of it all that I could do something about it, I just could not let it go.”
What started a year ago as a Facebook campaign to collect 100 packages of pads and tampons by next Janury has developed into a movement, known as Take Charge. Period. Kollinger achieved her goal for the year within the campaign’s second month. Take Charge. Period.’s mission is simple: to collect and distribute feminine hygiene products to women in need. Kollinger is working to obtain 501c3 status for the nonprofit, which she expects to achieve in the next six months.
She and Laura Harvey make up the two-woman team that drives the movement. Harvey joined Kollinger in May, offering her passion for the cause and experience working with nonprofits. Together and with the help of volunteers, they supply 40 packages of pads and tampons each month, sometimes more, to the pantries at Jewish Family Services, Vickery Meadow, and Frisco Family Services. But Kollinger has realized it is not enough. Each shelter needs about 80 feminine products per month; in addition, she has found that they prefer pads over tampons.
“Pantries often tell me stories about the patrons who come in and … their reaction to getting these products,” Kollinger said. “It’s not something you can use just any kind of government assistance on. If you can go to the pantry and know that it is going to be available, then you’re not spending the little cash you do have on pads and tampons.”
With Take Charge. Period., Kollinger wants to change the perception that talking about menstruation is taboo. She believes most people don’t think about the challenges of feminine health because it is not talked about.
To help spread awareness for the cause, Kollinger has teamed up with Women Making Waves for a networking-at-sea event that will bring together professionals and business owners on a cruise in October 2017, for which Women Making Waves named Take Charge. Period. charity of the year.
“I could just feel this energy from her, and I was like, ‘I want to help you with this in any way that I can,’” Women Making Waves co-founder Lisa Schnitzer said. “We felt compelled because there was no reason not to support them. They’re fairly unknown, and so we thought it was also a chance for them to get big exposure and big donations.”
During the cruise, Kollinger will have the opportunity to present to women the harsh realities some women face during their menstrual cycle, such as going with limited resources and having to miss work, especially when they can’t afford to do so.
“It’s heartbreaking, and I can’t allow it to continue,” Kollinger said. “Let’s do more. Let’s get to more pantries. Let’s get into schools that want it. Let’s get into finding out more about shelters and how we can help out the shelters. This is obviously something that’s a need.”
Kollinger accepts donations through drop-offs, pick-ups, or via the organization’s Amazon Wish List. To connect with her to make a donation, email [email protected] or visit www.facebook.com/takechargeperiod.