Ardsley High School rising senior Saakshi Philip is leading a local “Her Drive,” collecting feminine hygiene products and other necessities to donate to two facilities supporting women in need.
Chicago-based “Her Drive” is an organization launched in June 2020 by college students Alexa Mohsenzadeh from Emory University and Jenica Baron and Naomi Lacey from Tulane University, who run collection drives for menstrual care and general hygiene products, and new or gently used bras. Last October they launched a Host Your Own Drive Program, and as of this spring, more than 100 Her Drives took place, spread across 19 states.
Philip’s campaign will benefit My Sister’s Place, a temporary refuge for women and children escaping domestic violence, and Samaritan House, which provides temporary shelter and rehabilitative services to homeless women.
Last year, the 17-year-old founded a local chapter of Teens Helping Seniors (THS), under the auspices of the Maryland-based national organization, and worked with other volunteers to run errands, free of charge, for senior citizens staying home as a precaution against Covid-19. “But, starting in December, a lot of people were going out and buying groceries on their own,” she said. “We kept posting our fliers through the fall, but we got only one or two requests, so it didn’t happen after that.”
Philip still felt the need to help people who are struggling, and was Googling volunteer opportunities when Her Drive caught her eye. She waited to take action until final exams, college decisions, graduation, and other events were over, though. “I wanted to give it my full attention,” Philip noted.
She elaborated on the lack of access to feminine hygiene and other necessities for people in shelters. “Especially in terms of the Covid-19 situation, it’s been really hard for them [the shelters] to know which donations to take and which ones not to. Now that things are starting to get better, it’s still really hard for these organizations to get monetary donations as well as product donations.”
Rising seniors Claire Lin, Arielle Lvovsky, Eliana Miro, and Tuika Nerkir joined Philip in the effort, which is overseen by the Her Drive founders. After researching possible beneficiaries for donations, the girls discussed their ideas with Her Drive, and chose My Sister’s Place and Samaritan House, both in White Plains. In light of coronavirus-related precautions, communication among the girls and the shelters has been online or by phone, but the girls will meet some staff when they deliver the donations.
Items that can be donated include: new/gently used bras and bralettes, individually wrapped menstrual pads and tampons, DivaCups, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, travel-size toiletries, hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, and masks (homemade, cloth, surgical, N95, etc.).
The girls set up drop-off boxes for donations, open 24/7. Through July 23, boxes in front of Ardsley’s middle and high schools are open for donations. A box in front of the public library will be open from July 23 to Aug. 6. ShopRite on Central Avenue in Scarsdale and DeCicco’s Market in Ardsley agreed to allow drop boxes, and the girls are seeking additional locations.
The Host Your Own Drive Program guides the Ardsley drive. “They have a very clear process as to how to go about each part of the drive,” Philip stated. “We started coordinating with the official team toward the last week of June… We have multiple check-ins with the leaders by Zoom, to update them on the status of our drive.”
At the end of the collection period, the girls will inventory the items by category, indicating which ones were given to which institution, and entering the information on a spreadsheet they’ll send to Her Drive.
The girls created a flier, and are using social media platforms to spread the word about the campaign. They posted the flier and/or other information about Ardsley’s Her Drive on Nextdoor, the school’s senior class Facebook page, their own Facebook pages, WhatsApp, and their parents’ social media accounts, with the message to spread the word among friends. Philip made clear that Her Drive in Ardsley is about “how we can help our community, not our own organization.”
Philip acknowledged that Her Drive is an unusual campaign, bringing the fact of menstruation into the open.
“I feel like periods in general is not a topic that a lot of people tend to talk about unless it’s required in class, and I think it’s something that should be talked about. Some of them [the women] don’t have access to the basic products… and Her Drive seeks to acknowledge that disparity… I really like the whole concept of Her Drive, especially because it was started by students, and I felt like I could do something with an impact.”