Women of MC founder Olivia Stelter pauses after receiving donations. During the collection at Food Lion, Women of MC collected 20 bags of clothes, 10 boxes of feminine products, and more than 100 personal hygiene products. Submitted photo.
By Meg Dickens
Johnson County is a poor county financially. Locals are stepping up to make a positive change in the community, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Former Johnson County student Olivia Stelter and her organization, Women of MC, is one example.
“It’s our job as citizens to serve other people if we have the ability,” Stelter explained during an interview. “I want people to know that the organization serves as a catalyst for women and girls to reach their full potential. Everything we do is to see every girl and woman in Johnson County thrive.”
Stelter studied East Tennessee and what separates it from its surroundings while earning her Masters Degree in political science. According to her, this area is the “region of giving” that gave Tennessee the moniker the Volunteer State. Women of MC provides feminine hygiene products, general hygiene products, donated clothing, and academic development. Women of MC delivers these products to wherever they are needed in an enclosed trailer.
Currently, Stelter’s main concern is Period Poverty. Period poverty is the inability to access menstrual hygiene products. Former First Lady Michelle Obama highlighted the connection between Period Poverty and lessening educational productivity as part of her Let Girls Learn initiative. A recent study titled State of the Period shows that 50 percent of female students have missed class because of this issue. One major concern during COVID-19 is a lack of toilet paper. Other than the more obvious reasons, women without access to female hygiene products frequently use toilet paper as a substitute. Stelter reports that her work has increased tenfold.
“Mountain City is getting hit harder than a lot of areas in Tennessee because of lack of access,” Stelter said. “Women most affected by this are women in high school and middle school.”
Stelter reached out to Governor Bill Lee to transfer funding to Johnson County Schools to supply free menstrual hygiene products for women in Johnson County Schools. She is still waiting on confirmation from the Department of Education. Women of MC donated items to Johnson County Schools shortly before the schools’ temporary shutdown.
Stelter just started a series of podcasts interviewing Mountain City women about their experiences. One of her concerns is giving a platform to women who would not ordinarily have a voice. Women of MC fights to give every woman a platform regardless of status and show that they share more than they would assume.
Stelter’s long-term goals include devising public transportation, increasing social gathering sites, and creating a place to talk about abuse. Anyone in need of assistance can fill out a form. See the link on the official Facebook page. The next event is a clothes drop off on April 11 at the Food Lion parking lot from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. The Summer Mobile Donation Site will launch in early May. Find out more at womenofmountaincity.com.