Dignity Matters Helps Those with Unexpected Needs
Aug 31, 2020 12:51PM
By Susan Manning
Kate Sanetra-Butler had an unexpected request from a homeless woman in Boston in 2016: a spare tampon.
According to Liz Henderson, Natick chapter coleader of Dignity Matters, “The unexpected request started Sanetra-Butler uncovering a desperate need among homeless women and girls for sanitary products and underwear. Ultimately, she established Dignity Matters to meet that need.”
Henderson said Sanetra-Butler started small, with local donation drives and running the organization in her basement.
“But it quickly evolved into Dignity Matters, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that collects, purchases and supplies thousands of feminine hygiene products, bras and underwear to disadvantaged women and girls each month.
The organization partners with food pantries, public schools, homeless shelters, domestic violence centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s and medical clinics,” she explained.
So how did the chapter get founded in Natick?
“With the growth of Dignity Matters from basement to warehouse and an increasing number of volunteers, it was apparent that there had to be a different way of organizing donations. Hence, a network of Chapter Leaders was established in surrounding towns. Each Chapter helps organize donation drives for underwear and sanitary products. The Natick Chapter held its first donation drive in March 2017,” she said.'
Like many Chapter Leaders, Henderson was struck by the need for an organization such as Dignity Matters. Growing up in Scotland, she took access to sanitary products for granted and was shocked to learn the problem existed in the United States.
When Ivylee Martinez, one of the original Natick Chapter Leaders stepped down, Henderson, already a volunteer in the warehouse in Framingham and liaison with A Place To Turn, was happy to take over and help organize the collection drives.
Henderson said there are two major times for drives that supply their needs for the rest of the year.
“The donation drives in the spring and fall help supply our partners with underwear and sanitary products throughout the year. There are donation bins throughout the town including local churches, the Morse Institute Library and a number of grocery stores. In the past, there have also been donation drives at the local high school and various fitness centers. Dignity Matters always welcomes individual donation drives,” she said.
This type of organization doesn’t happen without the help of many people. Henderson estimated about 200 people are involved at the organizational level, with about 100 people involved locally in dating, including her coleader
The reason so many are needed to organize this organization? There are currently more than 8000 women each month who are supported by Dignity Matters. These women are supported with their mental care needs as well as underwear and bras.
In Natick, Dignity Matters has been partnering on a regular basis with A Place to Turn, Natick Service Council and MetroWest Family Promise.
“It may be surprising that there is such a need in the immediate area but on a monthly basis we support over 200 women/girls in Natick. As well as sanitary product, we also supply 250 bras and 300 pairs of underpants per month. In 2020 alone, Dignity Matters donated to the above-mentioned organizations product worth $6,554,” Henderson explained.
The Organization partners with more than 150 organizations such as The Boston Public Schools, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, MetroWest and Lowell, The Women’s Lunch Place, Pine Street Inn, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and MetroWest, and the Boston Health Care for The Homeless Program.
And the need did not stop despite the pandemic.
“We were able to very quickly adjust our operational model from mainly collections to purchasing and manufacturing menstrual products and to significantly increase our output to reach the growing demand” said Sanetra-Butler, Executive Director of Dignity Matters. “Since March we have distributed over 840,000 units of menstrual care supporting tens of thousands of women in our communities. Thanks to the fast and generous support of our local donors such as Parmenter Foundation, Foundation for MetroWest, MathWorks, and MetroWest Health Foundation we were able to get the menstrual care to the women and girls who needed it most.”
An additional boost was given to the group earlier in the spring when it was chosen to receive a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation
“The grant from the Cummings Foundation will be used for warehousing costs over the next four years. As a result of the funding, the organization now is able to broaden its services and partner with multiple manufacturers to purchase large quantities of items for a lesser price. It also provides security for our service partner knowing they can rely on Dignity Matters in the upcoming years,” said Henderson.
To help with the organization’s mission, Henderson said there are several options. Start with its website: www.dignity-matters.org.
“From hosting an individual drive, monetary donations or sending
items from our Amazon Wish list – everyone can find a way to help the mission. There will
also be an online auction beginning September 17 to help us raise funds to extend our programming to South Shore and to maintain the current level of service. We are currently kindly accepting auction sponsors and auction items from the local businesses,” she said.