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'We Gotcha Girl' helps fight the #1 reason girls miss school

Jake's discreet period pouches
Posted at 6:01 PM, Feb 05, 2024

NEENAH (NBC 26) — This is a topic that around 50% of you might not think about regularly, but studies show it's the number one reason girls miss school.

  • Organizers of an event at Jake's Network of Hope met Monday to fight hygiene insecurity.
  • The NOW Foundation estimates women spend $20/cycle on feminine products — which can add up to more than $200/year.
  • We Gotcha Girl packages feminine products into discreet bags young girls in need across eastern Wisconsin, and they're looking to expand the program into the Milwaukee area.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story, with additional details for the web)

This is a topic that around 50% of you might not think about regularly, but studies show it's the number one reason girls miss school.

I'm your Neenah Neighborhood Reporter Darby McCarthy, and here at Jake's Network of Hope, organizers met on Monday to help fight a major problem by putting together kits for a program called "We Gotcha Girl."

Lynn Hopfensperger is the community development officer at Fox Communities Credit Union, and on a trip to Colorado in 2019, she first heard that a lack of feminine products was the number one reason why girls miss school.

“And I thought, ‘We live in Wisconsin. Something's wrong in Denver,’" she said. "When we got back, I called a number of schools.”

And she found that it was a problem here, too.

“And I said how do we fix this?” Hopfensperger recalled.

According to the National Organization for Women Foundation, the average woman spends about $20 on feminine hygiene products per menstrual cycle, which averages more than $200 every year. And then, there's an additional cost.

“It's taxed! Feminine hygiene products are taxed,” said Hopfensperger.

“It isn't like I'm going out and buying a pretty dress… I'm buying something that allows me to continue to be the female I am and just do my job, whether it's going to school, going to work, whatever that is. Come on people. We need to get the tax off of this,” she said.

Senator Agard introduced a bipartisan bill in 2021 that sought to remove this tax, but it has not yet been passed, though it has supporters, like State Representative Lori Palmeri.

"I absolutely support it. Yes. Yes. Strongly," Palmeri said. "It'll be reintroduced. Absolutely. I know Senator Agard is looking at some, you know, different paths for the next session, but certainly, I'm sure that this will be a torch that will be carried on."

“Oftentimes we're looking at food insecurity but people don't always think about hygiene insecurity," Palmeri added.

So, Hopfensperger had the idea to partner with Jake's Network of Hope to raise money and create kits with feminine products.

They called the kits "We Gotcha Girl."

“Well, as it turned out, when we started this, the schools went nuts. We got a call from — I remember the Green Bay School District calling me saying, 'We'll take whatever you can give us,'” Hopfensperger said.

In its first year, We Gotcha Girl was introduced at an unexpected venue.

“We did the kickoff at a Green Bay Gamblers hockey game. Now, imagine something that’s 75% predominantly male, and all of a sudden... they had to rent a truck to get all the product to Jake's,” laughed Hopfensperger.

Monday, members of credit unions across the area came together to help put together these kits.

Hopfensperger says that $50 is enough to take care of a classroom.

“As young as third grade, we're keeping these students — from south of Fond du Lac all the way up to Green Bay and in Door County — we're keeping girls in school,” said Jake's Network of Hope Executive Director Scott Sawinski.

“Last year we got over 3,000 of these kits out in their schools, keeping girls in schools, empowering them, letting them learn and having all those great opportunities to be the best person that they can be,” said Jake's Development Director Jenn Harper.

After packing up all of the kits, volunteers ended the day by presenting a check for more than $10,000 to We Gotcha Girl.