A Lincoln-based non-profit has collected and donated millions of feminine hygiene products to make these products more accessible to those who need them.
Tower of Tampons is in its seventh year of providing community members, doctor’s offices, schools and other Lincoln organizations with free period products. In its first year, the female-led organization received around 13,000 donations. Now, Allison Luth, a co-founder, said they get millions of individual contributions in a year, both financial and physical products.
Luth and fellow co-founder Tosha Benes started the non-profit in a search to do something for others. After both leaving their jobs several years before the start of Tower of Tampons and opening PurelyMaid, a residential cleaning business, the duo wanted to help other women who may be struggling to buy tampons and pads.
“We just kind of missed doing a job that helps people,” Luth said.
So, in 2016, Luth and Benes decided to raise donations for a specific cause throughout Lent rather than follow the usual tradition of giving something up during the 40 days.
“We decided since we were women, and we owned a business together that we would do something that helps women, so that’s how we landed on feminine hygiene products,” Luth said. “We’ve just been doing it every year since.”
Tower of Tampons continued as a donation drive during Lent for the first few years; however, it has now grown to be more year-round. The organization collects and distributes donations throughout the year, specifically when a school, business or group requests feminine hygiene products, Luth said.
They also accept monetary donations through their Venmo account.
Businesses can also host donation events anytime, with their most recent drives occurring at a brewery and a boutique. Tower of Tampons doesn’t currently have any future events planned.
Other than during Lent, Luth said they don’t usually have many period products on hand because in recent years, they see more monetary donations coming in rather than actual products. Typically, an organization – or an individual – will reach out requesting products.
In this case, Luth said they sometimes have to solicit donations on social media if the need is higher than what they’re able to cover at that moment.
“There was one day that our account was a little low, and we had six elementary schools get a hold of us in a two-day time period. And so we put a post out, and I think that day we got $800 donated,” Luth said. “It’s crazy when people know specifically what they can do to help how easy it is for them to just help.”
Luth said they donate the most products to schools and have provided tampons and pads to almost every school in Lincoln and to the schools in the surrounding towns.
Period products, such as pads and tampons, are taxed items, one reason Luth said Tower of Tampons is important to the community. According to Bloomberg, tampon prices were up 10% from 2021 to 2022.
“We just want to make it so that people who have that need fulfill their need with dignity and not have to be ashamed of having the need of taking care of their period poverty,” Luth said. “It’s just such an expense for someone who’s already struggling.”
In June of 2022, a tampon shortage struck stores across the country, including those in Nebraska. During this time, Luth said they got more requests for feminine hygiene products than normal.
“We both understand that when you’re struggling, or in a period in your life where you’re struggling, that something that you need gets put on the back burner,” Luth said. “And we’ve had a lot of women reach out to us and share their stories with us about times when they have gone without, or they’ve used something very unhygienic, like an old sock.”
Kalika Jantzen, a board member and frequent donator of Tower of Tampons, said she hopes the organization can help end the stigma around periods.
“The fact that this is a neutral and, yet, promotional way of saying, ‘hey, this is a thing, and there’s a need everywhere every day,” she said. “Just saying that out loud over the years and on different platforms absolutely challenges or pushes back against the ideas that have existed and still exist about it.”
Jantzen, a long-time friend of both Luth and Benes, said she regularly donates because Tower of Tampons promotes a cause she cares deeply about.
“What they do is important,” Jantzen said. “Everything from just the awareness and kindness that it shows to any person and about the needs of half of the population for feminine hygiene products.”