CINCINNATI -- A group of Cincinnati parents is trying to keep women who are homeless or living in poverty in Northern Kentucky from the indignity of being without diapers for their children or feminine products for themselves.
The Cincinnati Momsters have collected more than $1,000 and hundreds of pads, tampons, diapers and other personal hygiene items, including soap and toothpaste, as well as clothing and winter gear. The ongoing donation drive will create 100 personal hygiene bags to be handed out by the Welcome House of Northern Kentucky and provide supplies to the Women's Crisis Center, also in Northern Kentucky.
The drive began in late October after a Momster shared on the group's Facebook page a Bustle article about the struggles women who are homeless face in dealing with their periods. The Momsters group, which includes a few dads among its 131 members, began in 2013 and in addition to meet-ups, they regularly volunteer and collect donations for local charities.
“We've done a lot for each other, and we try to do for the community, too,” said organizer Jenny Beene-Skuban, a lawyer and mother of two boys.
The hygiene drive grew beyond the Momsters after the presidential election. Many in the left-leaning group were inspired by the concession speech of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who urged people to continue working for others, for the public good.
“Get out there and get involved,” said Momster Claire Parsons, a lawyer who also serves on the board of the Welcome House. “That was really (Clinton's) legacy and her message. Liberal, conservative, whatever -- I hope everyone gets that message, that community service can make things better for everyone.”
Momsters began asking Beene-Skuban how their friends or family members could contribute. Some lived outside Greater Cincinnati. Some were liberal. Some were conservative. Everyone wanted to help.
On a lunch hour, Beene-Skuban created a CrowdRise page to raise money, which will be used to buy hygiene items to supplement donations. Then she ordered reusable grocery bags with the phrase “You Matter” on them; these will be filled and given to the Welcome House. The Women's Crisis Center prefers loose supplies.
Donations like these provide help beyond the usefulness of the items themselves, said Linda Young, director of the Welcome House. The agency serves about 1,200 households each year, and receives roughly $100,000 annually in donations.
“And that translates into a lot of rent getting paid,” Young said.
Supplies like the ones the Momsters are collecting can't be bought with SNAP benefits. A 40-count box of tampons or pads is about $6. A 100-count box of diapers is about $15. Receiving these frees up people's limited cash.
Since 2013, the Momsters have been getting together to talk and watch their kids play. They have created friendships. They have helped members through post-partum depression, broken bones, death and other calamities. This weekend, some will pack bags to help families they'll likely never know.
“The group really takes care of people, and that's really what community is supposed to be,” said Parsons, the mother of two girls. “I think that's pretty neat that you can create that.”
If you want to get involved with Cincinnati Momsters, visit the group's Meetup page.