VIENNA, Md. — Three girls in a Virginia Girl Scouts troop learned this year they are capable of anything they put their minds and hands to.
Girl Scout Troop 6833 aims to provide something more nourishing than cookies to those in need in the Vienna Community through their Free Period Product Pantry project.
The troop installed an outdoor access period pantry at Emmaus United Church of Christ located at 900 Maple Avenue E, Vienna, VA 22180. The pantry is right next to an existing food pantry outside of the church, which will allow those in need or who want to donate to have easy, drive-up access without attracting unwanted attention.
The troop of three girls - Isabel Buescher, Ariyanna Ghala, and Ramsey Warner - created the pantry as their Girl Scout Silver Award Project. To receive the Silver Award, the select project must benefit the community in a long-lasting way.
In recent months, buyers who need menstrual products in the United States have panicked, after observing fewer tampon packages on store shelves, or not seeing their preferred brand of tampons was not available anymore. The troop knew feminine products were a necessity for many people within their community but were aware that it's not as accessible.
The troop wanted their pantry to make these products publicly available to those who needed the most.
"We notice that pads and tampons were costing a lot of money in the stores. And, we were further [eager] to show due to the high cost of many people have to show without these vital products," said one of the girls.
According to NielsenIQ, between July 2021 and July 2022, the average price of tampons has risen by 10.8% while pads were up 8.9%.
Activists across the country have sought to change the way public systems address these problems like the "The Pink Tax," tampon taxes, and overall lack of accessibility to feminine products. Virginia is among the states that impose "The Pink Tax," although Gov. Youngkin Northam signed a bill in 2019 that lowered the retail sales tax on hygiene products to 2.5%.
The pantry was open to the public for free in early September. It took the girls roughly 30 hours for each of them to build the pantry with the help of materials donated by Sheets Lumber.
"Right now, it's going how it planned it to go. When we were building the pantry, it was kind of challenging learning how to use new equipment and tools," the girls said. "I think honestly, we were already planning on building it, and I think we just kind of assumed that we could do it. We were a little overconfident. We thought it will be pretty easy, but it was a little harder.
The pantry took roughly three hours to build and install for the troop. "And there were a few times we messed up with the [measurements] and screwing things in. But, then we got the hang of it," the girls said.
The girls decided to write a quote on the side of the pantry:
"Alone, we can do so little, together, we can do so much." The quote is by Helen Keller.
The idea came from their vision and purpose of the pantry.
"I like it because I thought it symbolized a lot of things we wanted our pantry to stand for: community, helping others out, and to be there for other people. Then to show that together we need to support everyone because we can't do it alone."
Posts on social media brought materialized in a good turnout at the pantry.
"It has been a crazy amount. We had our entire garage full of [products]. We've been overwhelmingly grateful. The pantry will serve as a donation drop-off point, making it self-sustaining.
The girls got the word out through local organizations on Facebook and other platforms to obtain community donations, and the girls received additional support from two businesses: Caffe Amouri Coffee Roaster and Trace - The Zero Waste Store.
The girls are planning to keep the pantry open and full of donated feminine products through the end of the year.
As of early October, the troop hopes to continue to work on getting their silver awards.
"We will be starting to work on our gold and silver awards. We are excited about that, but [the project] may not be finalized for some time," one girl said.
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