A fundraising event to prevent ‘period poverty’ will be held on campus in January

December 11, 2023
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

Emma Anderson ’25 started the nonprofit Not A Luxury Inc. in 2020 while she was still in high school. Three years later, the organization has donated 23,000 menstrual products to date throughout Vermont and is championing a movement to help people overcome period poverty.

Courtesy Emma Anderson

On January 27, Anderson’s nonprofit is hosting a fundraising event in the Roy Room at Saint Michael’s to continue making progress on this issue.

Courtesy Emma Anderson

Anderson first began thinking about period poverty while standing in the hallway of Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg during the peak of COVID-19 when a student ran up to her and other students, frantically searching for a menstrual product. No one had any to offer, so the student was forced to visit the nurse’s office – the last place anyone wanted to be during the early days of COVID-19.

“The little things that happen in your day can change everything,” Anderson said.

Later that day, Anderson was watching a news clip about a national organization called Period that was pioneering awareness around period poverty. Something clicked in her mind: Does Vermont or New England have anyone pioneering awareness around this issue? Anderson soon learned the answer was no.

“I’ve always been someone who’s been taught that if you see a need in your community not being filled, you need to fill it,” Anderson said. “If you’re the person who discovered it, you cared enough to go looking for it. I felt really strongly it was something I needed to start doing.”

Anderson reached out to the national organization, Period, and they gave her an initial donation of 1,800 products. Soon after, she set up drop boxes on her own and collected 5,500 menstrual products for her first donation which all went to Spectrum Youth & Family Services in Burlington.

“It clicked that this was my niche,” Anderson said. “This was my comfortable space that I could speak on.”

Photo by Cat Cutillo

Smiling, she added, “It’s not a topic everyone would feel comfortable talking about. I have no problem getting up on a stage in front of people and talking about tampons. In fact, I would love to.”

During her first year at Saint Michael’s, Anderson held the title of Miss Vermont’s Outstanding Teen 2021. She competed for Miss Vermont last April where she placed as third runner-up, and she plans to compete again in April 2024.

“So much of the Miss America organization is having a community service initiative that you can champion regardless of if you’re a local, state or national title holder,” Anderson said.

Courtesy Emma Anderson

She said those values of service also align with her education at Saint Michael’s College, where Anderson is a double major in History and Equity Studies.

“Being at St. Mike’s and seeing how the school fosters community service and community engagement in general has also been very inspiring and motivational to keep going,” Anderson said. “I’m proud to be a student at St. Mike’s.”

Three of Anderson’s Saint Michael’s roommates are now board members for the nonprofit who help with email and coordination. The main mode of donation is through an Amazon wish list that allows products to be sent directly to her mom’s house in Chittenden County. Anderson said she delivers products quickly after they arrive but while they are in holding, they are stored in her childhood closet next to her old pageant gowns.

Anderson’s 2024 goal is to make the nonprofit a 501c3. She currently donates menstrual products to Sara Holbrook Community Center in Burlington and YWCA Camp Hochelaga in South Hero. Last March, Anderson went to Washington, D.C.  to speak to legislators, and she met with Sen. Becca Balint and a legislative assistant to Peter Welch.

Anderson meeting with Sen. Becca Balint. (Courtesy photo)

“Watching people’s faces light up when you talk about things they’ve never considered before is a really powerful thing,” Anderson said. “It’s one of my favorite things about pioneering this nonprofit and this work in Vermont.”

Anderson said it’s important to her that people “have the dignity of choice.” She wants people to be able to take an entire sealed box or be able to choose the brand they prefer. She advocates that people use the words “menstrual products” instead of “feminine hygiene products” to be inclusive of all gender identities.

“I’ve made people aware of something that they weren’t before, which is powerful and important in itself,” Anderson said.

The Not A Luxury Inc. fundraising event is on Saturday, January 27, in the Roy Room on the third floor of the Dion Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for current students, faculty, and staff, and $12 for anyone else. People can visit the nonprofit’s Instagram @NotALuxuryIncVT to learn how to purchase tickets. All of the local title holders from Miss Vermont will be volunteering at the event and speakers will include Miss Vermont 2023 Yamuna Turco ’25 and employees from the Sara Holbrook Community Center. There will also be a silent auction and dinner. Attendees are encouraged to bring menstrual product donations to drop off at the event.

If you see a need in your community not being filled, you need to fill it.

Emma Anderson '25

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