Jana Girdauskas is a teacher, a mother and the creator of a successful non-for-profit group called, The Period Purse.
She provides a solution to the challenges that the homeless face, when they get their period.
With her army of volunteers, they collect tampons and pads along with wellness items, packed in purses, and deliver them to homeless shelters across Ontario.
The Period Purse started in a very organic and modern way.
In 2017 Jana had menstrual items that she wanted to donate to people experiencing homelessness, but nothing to put them in. She posted a request to a local Facebook group looking for a purse.
Before she knew it, she had dozens dropped off on her back porch. By the end of the month, she collected over 300 purses.
With the attention she received on social media, only a week later she appeared on CBC Radio’s popular radio show, Metro Morning.
She never ran a business before and the rapid growth that The Period Purse received in a short amount of time was overwhelming to her.
“I didn’t think it would explode the way that it did,” she says.
It’s a massive effort, but with its overwhelming response and simple method of spreading kindness, she told me that it would be hard for her to stop now.
I met Jana at a west Toronto church where dozens of volunteers were sorting, organizing and stuffing purses.
A motivational note like this one, “You are strong, you are powerful. What you are going through today doesn’t have to be your forever” is included in each bag.
Jana did not plan on The Period Purse becoming a full-time operation, on top of her career as a teacher. Currently there are 8 chapters across Ontario and in Toronto alone she helps 12 shelters, servicing 530 women and transgender men.
Running it involves managing donations, recruiting and organizing volunteers including school groups, maintaining the website, posting to social media, corresponding with the chapters, as well as storing and delivering product.
“There were things like governance and accounting that I did not know and had to learn quickly,” she says. “I asked a lot of questions, set-up a Board of Directors and struck a partnership with some large corporations.”
Even with a lack of staff and only so many hours in a day, Jana is focused on growth and helping more individuals so that no one is left behind.
“It’s important for people to know that someone is listening to them and cares.”
Her advice for anyone looking to start something similar would be to, “delegate, take breaks and holidays, and take all of the help that you can get.”
The Period Purse has launched the Support A Menstruator program. To find out more, visit www.theperiodpurse.com
photo: Emily D Photography