One of the rooms inside the new sewing center features a "Mission Possible! Keep Girls in School Period!" banner. (Matthew Quartararo/WUFT News)

Days For Girls opens new sewing center

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The Alachua County chapter of Days For Girls held a grand opening ceremony Sunday to celebrate its new sewing center in Gainesville.

Located at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Gainesville, the group focuses on helping to end “period poverty” by creating and distributing unique kits that include reusable and rewashable pads.

The local Days For Girls chapter made the move over from Highlands Presbyterian Church where they had previously been operating.

Radha Selvester, one of the co-chairs of the chapter, emphasized the importance of moving into the new, larger space.

“We cut around 200 yards of flannel every month,” she said. “There was no room to unpack [at Highlands Presbyterian].”

With the larger facility, the chapter is now able to house 15 sewing machines that are used by volunteers to make the kits. They also have some extra sewing machines that some volunteers can take with them to work on kits at their own home.

Days For Girls members complete these kits as part of the sewing projects. (Matthew Quartararo/WUFT News))

The move was completed over the course of four hours, with the help of 10 people.

“It didn’t help that there was a hurricane in the middle of us trying to move,” Selvester added.

Nonetheless, the chapter moved with no issue, and is set up inside what was formerly classrooms for Sunday School.

The current kits that are distributed globally include a variety of menstrual products such as liners, pads, underwear, soap, instructions, and a waterproof shields.

With the kit design, each person has access to eight liners, which can fold to provide up to six layers.

The kits were designed by Days For Girls at the national level and change in minor ways every once in a while as they receive feedback and suggestions.

Those volunteers who spend time with the chapter vary in age ranging from 8 to 103 years old. Selvester said that there are so many different jobs that so many different people can help out.

Michelle Belanger, the other co-chair of the Alachua chapter, shared how important it is to have so many hard-working volunteers.

“None of us could do what we do without all of us,” she said.

And that was evident at the grand opening, as dozens of people were hard at work doing a variety of different tasks to prepare kits.

So where exactly do the kits go? Everywhere. According to the Days For Girls 2021 annual report, the foundation distributed nearly 400,000 kits to local and global communities.

The Alachua chapter produced and distributed around 3000 last year.

The chapter was also one of the first to begin distributing locally instead of just globally.

Selvester shared a story about how in 2014 a woman came in with her daughters to volunteer and mentioned that they had missed school because of their periods in the past.

“That was the ‘aha’ moment,” Selevester added. “It’s here too, on a local level.”

That moment led to the development of abbreviated kits that could be distributed in local communities around Florida. One kit alone can last three-to-five years, which could save someone almost $500 on menstrual products.

The Alachua County chapter was helped greatly by the Kotranza Family Fund early on. The fund, which has the similar mission of reducing period poverty, sponsored the creation of kits for 1000 women. It was from there that Selvester began applying for more grants locally in hopes of being able to produce more kits.

The chapter has moved beyond just kits. In an effort to reduce waste as much as possible, they have also started to develop quilts, dog beds and hats to distribute as well.

Belanger also said how important reducing waste was to the chapter.

“There was fabric that was going to be trash, but now it will keep some kid warm,” she said.

What’s next for the Alachua chapter?

They are now preparing to send material off to a refugee camp Ukriane. In total, they are going to send 540 kits, 500 hats, and 600 blankets.

The idea, which originally was suggested by a former intern at Girls For Days, will benefit thousands.

The goal moving forward is to continue helping and grow and that starts with being able to say ‘yes’ according to Belanger.

“The power of yes is so important,” she said. “When people need help we’re always looking for ways to say yes.”

About Matthew Quartararo

Matthew is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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