Period Packing Party guests break stigmas, assemble care packages for less fortunate

Senior fashion merchandising major Tyshaia Earnest packs period products into care packages for those in need at the Period Packing Party on Tues., Jan. 28. Earnest organized the event, provided supplies for the packages and snacks for volunteers. 

Holly Liptak Reporter

The Campus Pointe clubhouse was alive with the crinkle of menstrual pads and the sound of Beyoncé’s “Run the World” as attendees assembled more than 100 menstrual care packages for the less fortunate Tuesday night.

Orchestrated by Tyshaia Earnest, senior fashion merchandising major and winner of the 2020 Fashion Scholarship Fund, the event brought together community members to assemble packs to be delivered to Haven of Rest Ministries which will distribute them to individuals.

The party was funded partly by Earnest’s scholarship money and partly by donations. Beginning with enough supplies to assemble 40 packages, the number climbed to more than 100 after an unexpected surge of guests who brought various items to donate.

Each care package included pads, tampons, panty liners, individual wipes, clean underwear, Hershey kisses and a handwritten note from the person who packed it. 

“I wanted to add cute little quotes because personal touches like that really make [people] feel like they’re seen,” Earnest said.

After experiencing homelessness in her childhood and later volunteering at Roots, a young adult shelter in Seattle, Earnest’s eyes were opened to the reality of so-called “period poverty.” Some may believe it only affects the homeless, when in reality college students can struggle with period poverty as well, she said. 

“I think [period poverty] is so overlooked because people can’t see it. You can tell when someone’s hungry,” she said. “Food insecurity can be an everybody problem, whereas period poverty tends to be a women’s issue.”

This issue has many faces and can manifest in different environments, regardless of one’s financial situation. Just because you cannot see what someone is dealing with does not excuse the problem, Earnest said.

“When a box of menstrual pads costs an average of $5 and you’re on a meal plan and struggling to make ends meet, that’s period poverty,” she said. “We can be in any position. If we’re compromising two necessities  and menstrual pads are a necessity  that is being impoverished.”

The stigma around periods is another topic Earnest addressed Tuesday. Guests were encouraged to write “a love letter to my period” on papers around the room. 

“Period poverty is an issue because of the cost and the stigma, which we can definitely break. One way that students can help that doesn’t cost anything is just work to break the stigma,” Earnest said. “We should work to make it not shameful.”

After studying with Earnest at the New York City Studio, senior fashion merchandising major Jenna Palek said the two grew close and Palek saw her friend as a role model in the fashion community.

“I was always really inspired by her ambition and her leadership,” she said. “I was not surprised at all when she won the Fashion Scholarship Fund, and I’m even more proud that she’s putting it to use by bringing it to the Kent community and giving us all an opportunity to give back to women in need.”

Earnest credited her Fashion Scholarship Fund win to the passion she put into her case study. Each contestant in the competition presents a case study following the project guidelines set for that year. This year the FSF prompt was collaboration. Regardless of whether she would win or not, she worked to build a project she could be proud of and that mindset has carried over into her everyday life.

“When I go all out, when I put all my passion in, when I tell my true authentic story, nothing can go wrong,” Earnest said. “Something good is going to come of it.”

Holly Liptak covers Crisis, Recovery, Hunger and Help. Contact her at [email protected]