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Baxter Community Center provides free pads and tampons to neighbors

The center bought three Aunt Flow dispensers, which stock around 500 tampons and pads. Executive Director, Sonja Forte, said this is a way to “normalize” periods and address inequities in product accessibility.

Baxter Community Center is increasing accessibility to menstrual products in its neighborhood, by providing free tampons and pads through public dispensers. The group told WGVU it’s a step towards addressing inequities and normalizing periods.

More than 300 million people menstruate every day. However, not all have the same access to menstrual products. That’s something Sonja Forte, Executive Director at Baxter Community Center, is working to change.

“The easiest way to sum it us is it’s just one less thing to worry about. The reality is these products are expensive,” she said.

The center, which offers health, nutrition, and mentorship services to Grand Rapids’ southeast side, recently debuted three Aunt Flow dispensers, which offer free tampons and pads to residents.

“If you are in the building or if you’re just are in the area and know you just need something to get by, not having to worry about it, not having to have that expense, not having to worry about whether your clothes are going to end up stained or ruined because there’s a financial piece but there’s also that emotional piece,” Forte explained.

State data shows over the course of a lifetime, the average menstruating Michigander has 456 periods and uses 17,000 tampons or pads. While Michigan recently repealed its 6% tax on these items, Forte said cost can still be a huge barrier. She added, it’s not something that gets donated to the center’s Marketplace pantry often.

“When I actually started here we were giving out four items per person, and you can only come to see us once a month. And anyone who has experienced a menstrual cycle knows that four probably won’t even get you through a day,” Forte said. “You’re looking at anywhere between $5-15 a box for product. Say you got 3-4 people in your household, that adds up very quickly.”

Forte said the initiative isn’t just about providing resources, telling WGVU it’s an opportunity to normalize the conversations around periods. When asked if Baxter Community Center would be able to keep the dispensers stocked, Forte said her team is determined to keep the resource in place and is working on fundraising and donation efforts.

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