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Why Donating Tampons, Toothpaste and Towels Can Make a Big Difference for Women in Need

April 12, 2019

Taylor Gawlik, development coordinator for Alternatives For Girls, tells SEEN why personal care items can make a big difference in a woman’s life.

By Stephanie Steinberg

At our Women SEEN Making an Impact conference on May 10 in Detroit, we’re collecting personal care items that will be donated to local women in need and distributed by the nonprofit Alternatives For Girls. AFG’s Taylor Gawlik shares how these products help girls and women who are starting a new chapter in their lives.

 1. Tell us about Alternatives For Girls and who you serve?

Alternatives For Girls is an organization that helps homeless and high-risk girls and young women avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation, and helps them to explore and access the support, resources and opportunities necessary to be safe, to grow strong and to make positive choices in their lives. Founded in 1987, Alternatives For Girls is a Southwest Detroit-based nonprofit. We serve homeless and at-risk girls and young women through the following programs:

Shelter: Provides a stable home, counseling, support for getting their education back on track, job readiness and life skills training to homeless young women ages 15-22 and their children.

Prevention: Serves girls ages 4-21 who are at risk of gang involvement, abusing drugs or alcohol, early pregnancy and school truancy. We engage them through mentoring, after-school programs, a college prep program and a summer camp.

Outreach: Helps teens and women engaged in high-risk activities, such as street-based prostitution, drug use and gang involvement, to understand the risks of such activities and transition to safe choices and healthy lives.

2. What resources do you offer for girls and teens?

At AFG, we offer resources like shelter, counseling, mentorship and programming that helps support participants on their journey to success. We also provide much-needed material resources (in-kind donations) like tampons, clothing and home items.

3. What is your role at Alternatives For Girls?

I am the Development Coordinator at AFG which means I am in charge of coordinating in-kind donations.  I work with our Outreach, Prevention and Shelter Departments to figure out what the agency’s greatest needs are, and then I work with the community to help collect those items.

4. What’s your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part of my job is collaborating with departments and the community to help make the biggest impact with in-kind donations.  Many individuals are not sure of what exactly agencies like AFG need. When I am able to let them know items that we actually need and the impact these items have on the participants we serve, donors walk away with a better understanding of the needs within their community. I always think of in-kind giving as a very personal and tangible way to bridge gaps within our communities.

5. For our Women SEEN Making an Impact event, we are asking guests to bring personal care items like deodorant, shampoo, tampons and more. Why are these products needed?

Many women do not have the resources to purchase these basic items. Knowing they can count on AFG for these items takes a huge stressor off of them and helps them focus on more pressing barriers they encounter.

6. Where does AFG distribute the products?

These products will be distributed to participants in our outreach, shelter, housing and prevention programs.

The outreach department will distribute these items to individuals that walk into our crisis resource center which is staffed 9-5 Monday-Friday as well as pass them out to women they meet during their street outreach trips.  Twice a week, staff and volunteers drive vans out into the community and pass out resources and information to women who find themselves on the street for a variety of reasons.

Our shelter and housing program will give these items to participants that are just coming to AFG.  When a woman enters the shelter or secures housing through AFG, she receives a welcome kit that includes any hygiene product a woman might need, including toothbrushes, towels, sheets, shampoo, body wash, conditioner and deodorant. It is important that participants feel a sense of stability when they come to AFG and these donations help provide that.

Participants in our prevention department, who attend our after-school program and Rise n’ Shine summer camp, will receive these items throughout the year, as they need them.

7. What types of products are you most in need of at the moment?

Currently we are most in need of home goods. These can be any items somebody would purchase when moving into their first dorm, home or apartment. We need everything from microwaves, to new linens, to cleaning supplies to welcome mats. Many participants leave AFG and move into their very own living situation. Turning an empty apartment into a home takes a lot of money, and AFG provides as much support as we can with providing some basic home items.

8. Do you have an example you can share about how these donated products have impacted someone?

Last summer, a participant came to us after losing her house in a fire. She had nothing. Through the support she received at AFG, including in-kind items from donors, she was able to move into a new place in less than three months and achieve a new sense of “normalcy.”

9. If someone can’t come to Women SEEN, but wants to donate or get involved with AFG, how can they?

They can always check out our website alternativesforgirls.org or attend an open house which occurs twice a month at 903 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.  I am always available to answer questions and can be reached at tgawlik@alterntivesforgirls.org.

10. Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Every donation you make will have an immediate impact for girls and young women who are at-risk today. Thank you for supporting them as they build safe and stable futures.

Personal care items will be collected by Attack Hunger’s Medical Division at Women SEEN Making an Impact on May 10 in Detroit. To attend Women SEEN, purchase tickets here.

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