WEST HARTFORD ⁠— On June 29, a small group of volunteers gathered in socially distanced fashion in a West Hartford parking lot to fill 500 tote bags with menstrual supplies and basic hygiene products, continuing the commitment of Dignity Grows, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, to address period poverty throughout the community. Nearly one in five individuals who menstruate lacks access to affordable disposable menstrual products, which are not covered by government-funded programs. This often results in school absences, missed work, and social insecurity, according to an email from the JFGH.

Dignity Grows Founder and Chair Jessica Zachs led the dedicated team of volunteers, which included several mother/teen daughter pairs as well as representatives of COMPASS Youth Collaborative, a Dignity Grows distribution partner that provides the discreet “Dignity Packs” to at-risk students in Hartford. At the request of another distribution partner, the group also assembled the first ever men’s Dignity Packs, which include shaving cream and disposable razors. Recipients immediately voiced their appreciation; one gentleman explained that he is finally able to go to job interviews with confidence thanks to the supplies in his Dignity Pack.

“Packaging the Dignity Packs was extremely meaningful,” said Jessica Berman, 17, who volunteered with her mother in the Solomon Schechter Day School parking lot. “Giving back to those in need is always important, but it’s especially meaningful during these unprecedented times. I feel extremely fortunate to have volunteered alongside my mom to package the first 80 Dignity Packs for men.”

Randi O’Brien, a mother who volunteered her time, explained, “When Jessica Zachs told us about the work she was doing with Dignity Grows, I knew I wanted to get involved. We are so fortunate to live in our community. Giving back to it and spending the morning with a diverse group of committed individuals brought me joy. As a bonus I was able to assemble the bags side by side with my daughter, Hannah. Now that she’s aware of the need for hygiene supplies, she wants to take further action. During this time when we may see less classroom learning time, Hannah found a way to get involved and continue her learning outside of school.”

Over 1,000 Dignity Packs have already been distributed to women, girls, and individuals assigned female at birth throughout Greater Hartford this year. Dignity Grows continues to plan new and innovative ways to reach those in need and to engage local volunteers. The program is also being extended to Jewish communities nationwide, with Dignity Grows serving as a template for other efforts to address period poverty across the country.

“Our partners are seeking renewed opportunities to help their communities during these challenging times, and they look to Dignity Grows to help make that possible,” said Jennifer Tolman Schwartzman, the Federation’s director of community connections.

Dignity Grows is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, supported by Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Division. To learn more, contact Jennifer Schwartzman at jschwartzman@jewishhartford.org or 860.727.6117. To make a financial contribution, Venmo your donation to @dignitygrows. A $10 donation covers the cost of one Dignity Pack.

For more information visit www.jewishhartford.org.

Connecticut Media Group