Women of MC founder Olivia Stelter meets with Johnson County High School Principal Leon Henley to discuss period poverty and adding dispensers to the school. Submitted photo.
By Meg Dickens
The Johnson County School Board had a special guest during its most recent board meeting. Steve Owens, the father of Women of Mountain City founder Olivia Stelter, showed up to offer free feminine hygiene products to young girls in Johnson County Schools. Women of Mountain City plans to capitalize on the meal delivery system with the help of school officials, which will increase the number of young women receiving this service.
“This is a free donation, and we would hate to see this service rejected,” Owens said. “I know it is not typical for a man to come before the school board about an issue such as this, but together we have to start breaking the stigma around this natural part of life. I’m open to freely giving our kids what they need without them needing to ask.”
Women of Mountain City has been working with Johnson County Schools, specifically with Supervisor of Evaluations and Student Services Dr. Emogene South, to reduce period poverty for a while.Thanks to this effort, there are free pad dispensers in Johnson County Schools in the counselors’ and nurses’ offices. JCMS and JCHS also have dispensers in restrooms.
“It’s a good idea,” said Board Member Kevin Long. “It’s one of those things that I never thought of.”
According to Owens, most people are unaware of period poverty until it is brought up. Both Owens and Board Member Mike Payne said they were unaware before Stelter mentioned the subject. Period poverty is more than just an inconvenient issue. It can affect schoolwork, confidence, and the social life of young women who suffer from it.
School Nutrition Director Kathy McCulloch plans to work with JCMS and JCHS to figure out names to direct donations towards. At the time of the meeting, no obvious major obstacles were blocking this donation or distribution. However, this was not an agenda item, so any vote from the Johnson County School Board would have to wait until the Thursday, September 10 board meeting.
“I don’t foresee that this needs to come up from the board,” said Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox. “We’ll make it happen. It’s just getting the logistics down.”
Stelter received an email from South on Tuesday, September 8, stating that students can “stop by a school that is closest to their home to pick-up pads if they needed them.” South reports that students from fourth grade up were notified of the availability
by student email, but it seems that Johnson County Schools will not be delivering these products. Stelter says the organization will rent vans to deliver the products themself.
“We’re going to take care of these girls,” Stelter promised.
The Women of Mountain City is a nonprofit organization that provides feminine and hygiene products, clothing, and academic and professional development resources to women in Johnson County anonymously and free of charge. For more information on this organization, its plans, and donating, visit womenofmountaincity.com or @womenofmc on Facebook. All funds go directly back into the program to make events possible.