New nonprofit aims to end period poverty

The Peninsula Period Network is a new nonprofit organization raising funds, collecting donations and applying for grants to end period poverty in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

“One in four girls last year said they missed some or all school activity,” organizer Chera Wackler said. “It’s due to a lack of period products. If we could fix that for just one or two girls, I think it would be life-changing.”

That statistic matches a study performed by PERIOD. called State of the Period 2021. PERIOD. said the study illustrated the widespread impact of period poverty on U.S. students.

PERIOD. is a global nonprofit that seeks to eliminate period poverty and stigma. According to their website, they distribute millions of menstrual products for free to people in need and are part of a growing movement toward increasing access and lowering barriers to these products.

Last week, Scotland became the first country to provide free tampons and pads to anyone who needs them. Schools in Illinois, Washington, Virginia, New Hampshire and New York also provide free tampons and pads as a result of state legislation. Schools in New Zealand, Wales and much of Canada also provide free menstrual products.

Wackler sees other ways the Peninsula Period Network can have a big impact on girls.

“Our big goal is to end period stigmatization through body positivity education,” Wackler said.

The Peninsula Period Network only came into existence a few weeks ago, but Wackler said she’s seen incredible support from the community.

The organization held its first meeting Aug. 8.

“Our first meeting had 18 people at it, and I had only mentioned I wanted to start the organization four days prior,” Wackler said.

Nurses, educators and a doctor have reached out to help.

“I think that there’s quite a few people that see this as a need and a need that we could fill fairly easily,” she said.

Long term, the organization is planning education projects, first-time menstruation parties and outreach. Right now, the goal is to provide period products to every menstruator in KPBSD schools.

Reaching every menstruator means getting products into every high, middle and even elementary school.

“Sixteen percent of menstruators start before the age of 11,” Wackler said.

Elementary students are at greater risk of trauma if they don’t have the supplies they need, according to Wackler.

Wackler said that nurses often help fill the gap, but that they don’t advertise they have the necessary products. Teachers, too, will provide, but a lot of those supplies are “things that they themselves get.”

She said, “We want to take that responsibility away from them. We would love to fill that gap for them.”

To ensure access, Wackler said that it’s important to have the products available actually inside the restrooms. Elementary schoolers in particular don’t know that they should have access to these things, and only go to the nurse in emergency situations.

“It takes a lot to go to the nurse for something and then have to speak with someone about it, as opposed to just having it available,” Wackler said.

“It’s not something that you always have,” she said. “I think we’ve all come across a time when we don’t have one.”

Providing an accessible supply in schools would “completely change the lives of some young people on a pretty immediate basis,” according to Wackler.

Another element of improving access is improving awareness. Wackler said she is already working to identify potential ambassadors, who would be students at the high school level and adults at the elementary level who could take charge of refilling supply in bathrooms while also spreading the word. A few ambassadors are already lined up at local schools.

“Education happens through rumor and is spread through other teenagers,” Wackler said.

Having these ambassadors be people with “real answers” to questions can continue the education element of the organization’s goals.

Formal educational programs will come later, but Wackler doesn’t want them to be tied into KPBSD. That would require submitting curriculum and being more tightly structured.

Instead, Wackler wants to create an open discussion environment, saying she’s already spoken to the public library, and would also pursue hosting events at local churches and at other organizations.

Wackler took the enrollment predictions published by KPBSD for fiscal year 2023 and calculated the cost of supplying period products — pads and tampons — to every student in the district as roughly $10,000.

That number includes every school in the district, not just those in Soldotna or Kenai. Wackler is actively applying for grants and working to raise funds, hoping to build enough support to cover every school by the end of next year.

She applied for a $1,000 mini grant from the City of Soldotna, and planned to attend the city council work session to present on behalf of the organization.

Cash and product donations are actively being accepted by the Peninsula Period Network at this time. A donation box for products is at the Soldotna Public Library, quickly assembled and implemented in response to the immediate offer for donations that Wackler experienced.

Cash donations are being taken as a 501(c)(3) under Bridges Community Resource Network, Inc. They can be donated at Wells Fargo directly to The Peninsula Period Network.

Wackler is also working on implementing a wider range of donation options like Venmo, PayPal and Square. These will be accessible through the organization’s Facebook page.

Wackler says cash donations are easier to manage because supplies can be quickly purchased in bulk. A local pharmacist has already committed to purchasing supplies at cost for the organization.

Product donations are absolutely welcome, however, with Wackler saying “absolutely, that’s wonderful, and it helps keep the community included.”

Information about the Peninsula Period Network can be found at its Facebook page.

“Anyone is welcome to connect with me through the Facebook group,” Wackler said.

A website is being designed that is targeting a launch online in the next month. Meetings will be held monthly. The next meeting will be Sept. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Phormation Chiropractic, though Wackler hopes to eventually host meetings at the Soldotna Public Library.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at