Lansing-based nonprofit expands into Grand Rapids, promotes period equity


GVL / Aida Dennis

Ashley Moubray, Staff Writer

A Lansing-based nonprofit called Helping Women Period (HWP) recently expanded into the Grand Rapids area. For eight years the organization has advocated for period awareness and equity by providing Michigan women with necessary period products.

HWP was founded in 2015 by Executive Director Lysne Tait, a Lansing local. Tait said the development of HWP as an organization came out of a decision to help those in need in even small ways. After reading an article revealing the lack of menstrual products available to homeless or low-income individuals, she planned a small breakfast with friends to collect money and supplies to help collect menstrual products.

Soon enough, what started out as a Facebook post turned into a larger effort. Four days after Tait’s initial post, it had gained so much traction that Tait filed nonprofit paperwork. Today, HWP partners with over 200 nonprofits and schools to provide free pads and tampons. 

Tait said young girls in low-income communities often miss school because their families lack the funds to supply menstrual products. When these products are readily available at school, young girls are no longer forced to put their education on pause.

“We provide schools with pads and tampons, but that’s just dealing with the symptom,” Tait said. “We also provide education with our Menstrual Product Petting Zoo, where we advocate for period equity.”

The “Menstrual Product Petting Zoo” is an event where those in need receive any necessary pads, tampons, menstrual cups or other period products. This event aims to open attendees’ eyes to the various options to deal with menstruation.

In their pursuit of period equity, Tait and HWP helpers were “instrumental” in working with the Michigan Legislature to remove the tampon tax in the state. This year, she’s working with Michigan legislators to provide all schools with easily accessible menstrual products.

“Whenever I deliver products to schools, the secretaries and counselors cheer because they are the ones who have been buying pads and tampons for their students out of their own pockets,” Tait said. “I would love to be legislated out of a job. Until then, I will continue to provide products to those who need it.”

HWP expanded from Lansing into the Kalamazoo, Jackson and Flint areas and now works directly with Sparta Schools in Grand Rapids. In the future, HWP hopes to ally with schools across West Michigan as they further establish themselves in the area. 

Amanda Thompson, the Executive Director of Helping Hands Food Pantry in Charlotte, Michigan, praised HWP’s work as they started donating menstrual and bladder products to Helping Hands eight years ago. 

Thompson said she realized how integral pads and tampons were to Helping Hands’ cause as both organizations continued to grow.

“When you have two different organizations working together without duplicating their main goals, both missions are able to help each other,” Thompson said. 

Thompson added that at times periods are somewhat of a “taboo” topic. However, alongside Helping Hands, HWP helps to combat the stigma surrounding periods. 

“If we can make periods more commonplace and make it known that it’s an issue all women and age groups have, then we’re doing a better job as a society making it less taboo,” Thompson said.

Other companies HWP partners with include Honey Pot, U by Kotex and Alliance for Period Supplies.

“Because we (HWP) buy in bulk, we can provide for one person’s menstrual needs for an entire year for only $40,” Tait said.

HWP’s many efforts have greatly impacted the lives of many families across Michigan, paving the way for positive social change.