The first period product caddy to be installed is seen at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Jan. 30, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

The first period product caddy to be installed is seen at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Jan. 30, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

Group fights war on period poverty

Peninsula Period Network makes free period supplies available in local schools

The first meeting of the Peninsula Period Network was held Aug. 8, and brought 18 people together with a desire to end period poverty in Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Schools. Only six months later, organizer and founder Chera Wackler said they’ve hit the original $10,000 fundraising goal, and since the start of the month, period supplies and restroom caddies are being installed in local schools.

Many schools in Soldotna, Kenai and Homer already feature Peninsula Period Network caddies in restrooms that include pads and tampons available for free.

When Wackler spoke to the Clarion on Friday, she said she had just installed caddies at K-Beach Elementary.

In addition to donations from the community, Wackler said she’s secured grants from cities in the borough. A $1,000 grant from Soldotna “was the catalyst to getting it all going.” The network has also received $1,000 from Seward and $500 from Kenai.

Wackler said KPBSD leadership quickly supported the cause, and she has since signed a memorandum of agreement allowing the network to enter all of the district’s schools.

Wackler said her focus is on identifying advocates in the schools — students who will take on the responsibility of refilling caddies and spreading the word about the availability. A Facebook post from the network lists 19 schools with advocates signed up, leaving 23 schools still unaccounted for.

Advocates will be in regular communication with a variety of regional chairpeople, Wackler said. Nikiski, Homer, Seward and Kenai each have a chairperson, while Wackler serves for Soldotna as well as the other smaller communities around the district.

The advocates will let the chairpeople know if more supplies are needed at a school, and she said they can also coordinate support for students who need help outside of school hours, including over winter or summer break.

“It is a network of everyone, and the community has really stepped up,” Wackler said.

Though goals have been met and products are available in schools, fundraising and donations continue. Products will be used and will need to be replaced. Wackler said that donation boxes are available in some businesses, as well as in the local public libraries.

“Whatever is donated in a community specifically stays inside that community,” she said.

A big part of the work being done by the Peninsula Period Network is about destigmatizing periods, Wackler said. That starts with conversations with early menstruators, but also creating an understanding of period supplies. Wackler said she’s had conversations with adults who don’t know what period supplies are.

“It’s getting people involved and recognizing that that’s a need,” she said. “I initially thought that would be a hard sell, but I think as soon as people find out that it’s just not being met, they’re like ‘oh, well, we need to fix that.’”

Wackler said someone from the Juneau area called her asking how something like the Peninsula Period Network can be done in their area.

“It’s really just community involvement and getting people interested in meeting that need.”

It doesn’t take that much money to make reliable access to period products available to every student in the district, Wackler said.

“We don’t need $100,000, we don’t need $5 million,” she said. “We could do it for about $40,000, and that means not just emergency needs, but every single need. The small investment and the amount it can affect a child’s life is just huge to me.”

Wackler said that consistency matters — free access to period supplies needs to become something that students become confident that they can count on. She said she hopes to see parents donate an amount at the start of each year and trust that supplies will be available for their students.

Donations can be made online using a credit card or Venmo, purchased through an Amazon Wishlist called “Peninsula Period Network Wishlist,” or dropped in donation boxes at Soldotna Public Library, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Phormation Chiropractic, Kenai Community Library, Encore Dance, M&M Market, Ulmer’s Drug & Hardware, the Seward Community Library and Seward Safeway.

For more information about the Peninsula Period Network, visit facebook.com/peninsulaperiodnetwork.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Donated products are gathered before being boxed and sent to schools. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

Donated products are gathered before being boxed and sent to schools. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

Boxes of period products are stacked, each destined for a specific school. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

Boxes of period products are stacked, each destined for a specific school. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

A donation box for period products. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

A donation box for period products. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

A period product caddy. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

A period product caddy. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

A donation box for period products is available at Soldotna Public Library, the first location to feature one. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

A donation box for period products is available at Soldotna Public Library, the first location to feature one. (Photo courtesy Chera Wackler)

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