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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Distributing Dignity

A Distributing Dignity collection box in Campion Student Center (Photo by Matt Barrett ’21).

Women’s Leadership Initiative brings necessities to women in need

Joanie Balderstone’s mother once gave her a piece of advice that Balderstone used to name a nonprofit she started.

“‘Just because these women are in need, doesn’t mean they do not deserve the dignity of a new bra,’” Balderstone said her mother, Joan Balderstone, told her.

Balderstone later used these words as inspiration for her nonprofit organization Distributing Dignity, which provides bras, sanitary pads and tampons to women in need of these items.

Balderstone came up with the idea for Distributing Dignity after donating gently used business clothing to an organization in Camden, New Jersey.

“When we made the donation, one of the women there pulled us aside and thanked us for the donation of clothing but said she didn’t have a decent bra to wear underneath,” Balderstone said. “When we started talking to her more, what we found out was not only did they not have new bras to wear there but they also were going without pads and tampons.”

In 2010, Balderstone hosted a party and asked people to bring a new bra or an unopened package of pads and tampons as a donation. She went back to the Camden, New Jersey organization with these items. Three years later, Balderstone and her co-founder Rebecca McIntire started Distributing Dignity.

“We are actually offering a dignity to women because these items are so important to how they feel about themselves and their health,” Balderstone said.

St. Joe’s is one of several local colleges and universities, including Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg University and West Chester University, that help collect items for the organization.

Lauren Preski ’20, treasurer of St. Joe’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), worked to bring the Distributing Dignity drive to St. Joe’s.

“People donate all the time,” Preski explained. “They donate food, they donate all the other things people normally donate, but no one really thinks about women as a minority and the things that they need.”

The drive at St. Joe’s, now in its second year, is held during the month of March, which is National Women’s History Month.

Last year, WLI collected four packs of underwear, four packs of cleansing cloths, 30 bras, 1,903 pads and 1,624 tampons. Preski said they are still counting up the totals for this year’s drive.

Preski and Lucy Higgins ’20, marketing director for WLI, said they saw the drive as a way of opening up a new conversation with St. Joe’s students about this particular need.

“I would never think twice about not having a tampon when I’m on my period,” Higgins said.

Preski added many people don’t think of products like pads and tampons as necessities. “Talking about the need for essentials such as pads, tampons, and proper undergarments is really something that organization can bring to St. Joe’s campus that other people aren’t going to have a conversation about, that people aren’t really gonna go the extra mile to help.” Preski said.

Cameron Cardona ’19, social media assistant of WLI, is also involved in helping out with the drive.

“We aren’t mindful of how expensive that privilege is,” Cardona said. “I never have to worry about accessing items and products that are going to keep me hygienic and clean and keep my health. I don’t have to worry about going out in public and being ridiculed or shamed for not having those products.”

Lisa Hansinger, a career counselor at the Career Development Center, donated to the drive this year for the first time.

“I really like the title of the drive, the distributing dignity, because it seems like if you were a person who needed these products and you found yourself in a homeless situation, it’s an uncomfortable request to make so it makes sense that this is an item that should be available,” Hansinger said.

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