Tamiko Nettles was browsing her LinkedIn feed when she came across a post that spoke to her heart. The founder of an organization called the Every Woman Project was looking for people who wanted to partner in an initiative that helped homeless women in need. She clicked on the video link and was profoundly moved by what she saw.
Ms. Nettles wanted to get involved and immediately reached out to the project, but didn’t receive a response. Undeterred, she went to the founder, Shannon McDeez. In the same day of speaking with McDeez, Nettles had secured a donation, a location, and connected with seven shelters on the south and west sides of Chicago.
We spoke with Nettles regarding the evolution of the Every Woman Project Chicago and her hopes for 2020.
What exactly is the Every Woman Project?
Nettles: Every Woman Project is an initiative taking place across Canada and North America to bring period care products to those in need. Our mantra is if you are in need, we’re here for you because we do things not only for those who need period care packages but for anyone in need, especially with the toiletries and other things we give.
Why did you choose to get involved?
Throughout my college years, we had to do different projects. One of the hardest was going to shelters. We went and prayed with people and did different things with them. It was great because I got an opportunity to hear their stories.
When I moved to Chicago from Atlanta, I did something similar with my graduate program where I did night hours at some shelters here in the city. I had an opportunity to see and experience a different group of people who got into this situation or circumstance – not because it was something that they fell upon – but it was just things that occurred.
It was an opportunity to hear someone else’s story and listen to what they wanted to do to get out of it. Anyone can be a step away from being in that spot. I never want to be too prideful to think that will [not] happen to me or that will never happen to someone I know.
Why not make monetary donations to local shelters?
I think anybody could do that. There’s such an incredible impact when many join together. It has a more significant effect knowing that other people also see this as something they should do because there is a need for it. This is about the community.
When we first started, it was just five of us; myself, Ms. Stone, my mom, and my two daughters. We were putting things into white paper bags, and even at that moment, I knew this has to be bigger. It had to be more than just a few people focused on doing something for those in need. Doing things as a community sends a message that there is togetherness, and it gives that same sense to the individuals receiving it. I feel that it creates more of an impact.
What does a day of service with the Every Woman Project look like?
Initially, it began with people coming and putting things in bags, but it has evolved into more. There is fellowship and opportunities for people to get to know each other while packing items.
We have two different stations; one for period care, which includes all the products needed to survive in a month, such as maxi pads, liners, wipes, and tampons. The second station is for toiletries. Our donors can also write personal notes to those receiving period care packages or anyone that is in need. At the end of the event, we share some final words. This is the time where individuals who participated in the event can share who they met, what they learned from being a part of the event, and one thing they can do within their community to keep it going.
How do you get people to volunteer their time and or money?
We have an Eventbrite link where people can sign up for times to come to the event. The events are always on the third Saturday of every month. We also have a GoFundMe Page and an Amazon Wish List, where people can donate items or funds.
[PJS]: What are your hopes for the Every Woman Project Chicago in 2020?
[TN]: My hope next year is that we have more donors and organizations willing to donate items. I would also love to have more volunteers, more men, and children. Typically, we have women volunteers. I want more men and children in the space as donors and volunteers because I think that’s super important. In terms of the initiative, we are growing. We were initially giving 100-period care packages to shelters. Now thanks to our donors and volunteers, we are providing a total of 385 packages every month. We are packing 150 toiletry bags every month, which is beautiful. The goal for 2020 is for us to do 1000. I would love to do 500-period care and 500 toiletries every month.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a service initiative of their own?
Don’t doubt the abilities that you have. There’s always something we are equipped to do. There will always be fear, but when you second guess, the people who are waiting on you to do what you need to do will never get what they need. Once you say yes, once you say that you will, every single thing will fall in line. That’s what I saw with this initiative; the minute I talked to the founder, everything began to fall into place.
For more information or to volunteer, go to Every Woman Project Chicago at Eventbrite.com, or to theeverywomanproject.com.