Nashville is home to its own brand of special innovation, one that continually seeks to define and evolve its identity—a city motivated by its nondescript origins, smack in the middle of the country, culturally isolated, neither north nor south, rural or urban. Over the years, its citizens have dared to stand out, whether it’s in music, cuisine, fashion, or in this case, charitable causes.
It’s the Holidays, Period. was started to provide sanitary products to homeless women. It’s a need that’s rarely addressed or even mentioned—but once it’s brought up, it becomes painfully clear how difficult it is for someone to manage without such a basic necessity.
We talked to Kate Parrish about the initiative she founded and what she hopes to accomplish with it.
Bitter Empire: Tell me about It’s the Holidays, Period.
Kate Parrish: First, it’s a drive to collect unopened boxes of tampons and pads for homeless women and women living in transitional housing. I’m a writer, and I was working on a story for a young women’s publication. I was exploring how women can be made to feel ashamed of their bodies in different ways. I had this idea all of a sudden—this question, rather—what do homeless women do when they’re on their period? I did a quick search online to see if any charities specifically ask for sanitary items, and what I saw is they normally just ask for toiletries: soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner. You don’t think of tampons or pads, and they don’t get asked for, so they don’t get delivered. I kept thinking about it, and I called a few places to see if this was a need for them, and the response I got was an overwhelming yes, and I thought maybe somebody should do something about that.
For me what struck a chord was that feminine hygiene products are really necessary, and yet so many people have to go without them, because they can be cost prohibitive. If you’re making $7.25 an hour—if you even have a job—and a box of tampons is $5-$7, you have to do a full hour of work to buy something essential. And then I found out that food stamps don’t cover these items, which was shocking to me. So even if you’re on government assistance, you can’t get them.
BE: How did you get started?
KP: I had the idea a week before Thanksgiving, and then I launched it the day before Thanksgiving. I made a few phone calls and did some preliminary research, and I thought having partners would be a good way to get started. I talked to Amanda McClanahan, who owns Cognito Hair Design—we’ve been friends for a really long time, and she said yes right away, she said we could use her place as a drop-off location. And I got in touch with Kady Decker, who owns a couple of Pure Barres in town, and she agreed to help. There’s been a ton of support from female entrepreneurs. Ashley Sheehan from Old Made Good, I went by today and she had a giant bin that was completely full. She said a teacher from TSU had presented it to her class and the students brought in all of those products.
It’s been incredible. It’s exceeded my expectations, and I’m blown away by the support of the community and people’s willingness to help in whatever way they can: whether it’s donating money, donating products, becoming a drop-off location. I’ve had a couple people say they’re asking, for their holiday parties, that they’re asking guests to bring products. People are getting really creative with it. It’s been incredible, it really has.
It was originally supposed to be just a product donation drive, but the first people that reached out to me were a friend from Atlanta and a friend from New York—and they wanted to participate, they wanted to know what they could do. And that’s when the GoFundMe was established, and that’s been amazing. It’s helped immensely. It’s taxing for people to have to try and find a location…some people don’t have the time, or they don’t live here. I’ve tried to create an avenue for everybody to help in whatever way they prefer. And the GoFundMe is also the place I’ve listed all the drop-off locations, and the sponsors, and all the information about how donations are being used.
BE: So what’s next after this? Have you thought ahead that far?
KP: I’m gonna sleep! I haven’t slept in about two weeks. The way this idea has been gathering support, it keeps me going. But I definitely want to do it again next year. It’s hard with charitable drives, because people get fatigued really quickly, and then they tune you out. So I think it works well for this time of year, because people are already out shopping. I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible. And I want to do it again, I want to keep going. That’s the goal.
BE: Have you had any problems or challenges?
KP: Before I launched, I was really nervous that there might be negative responses. But there really haven’t been. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by that – there have been no crude jokes, or unsympathetic responses. People have rallied around it, and I think it’s because there was no awareness of the need, and it’s a genuine need.
BE: I never would have thought of it, just because it’s never discussed. It never occurred to me.
KP: Exactly. There’s drives for clothes, and canned goods—things which are very important. But you aren’t going to get what you don’t ask for.
BE: And every place has different rules about what they do and don’t accept.
KP: I’ve had several women reach out to me and ask if we could do menstrual cups, because they’re reusable, they’re economically and environmentally friendly, but unfortunately they’re not a good fit for this initiative because there’s no guarantee that a homeless woman will have access to a bathroom. And biologically, they don’t fit everyone.
BE: Which organizations will be getting the products?
KP: I picked three different organizations that all serve the female population in Nashville in a different way. Nashville Rescue Mission takes care of a lot of women by providing food and shelter. Renew, through the YWCA, that helps women who are escaping from domestic abuse establish self-sufficiency. And the third one is The Next Door. They provide transitional housing for women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
I hope we can collect enough to provide for everyone in need for a long time.
If you’d like to help and you aren’t in Nashville, connect with the initiative through their Go Fund Me page.