Nascimento’s mission: Meet the need for hygiene products

Nascimento’s mission: Meet the need for hygiene products

Erin Nascimento distributes hygiene products in bags covered in inspirational messages.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – State lawmakers’ decision during this year’s legislative session to require that feminine hygiene products be made available for free to students was a huge step in the right direction, says North Providence’s Erin Nascimento, founder of Red.Lined.Period.

The new nonprofit group was formed several months ago and kicked into gear in early June with a distribution of free hygiene products to all North Providence public schools. Nascimento said she’s still researching where funds will come from in the wider state effort, but her organization will stick with its mission whether or not it continues on partnering with the schools beyond the next year.

Nascimento partners with the PVD Community Fridge and other pantries to deliver hygiene products, and is also formalizing other partnerships to do the same at additional accessible locations.

“Through community gifting, I collect and distribute an array of products but mostly pads and tampons packed in really adorable pouches,” she said.

With a mission to only operate through donations, Nascimento is also reaching out to local businesses to help in placing contribution bins as she tries to get the word out more widely.

In addition to North Providence schools, including the C.I.T.E. School (soon to be Ocean State Academy), Red.Lined. delivers items to book boxes and Little Free Libraries and has also been in contact with various human service organizations about partnering with them to help.

Nascimento explained the idea behind the organization.

“Menstruation does not change based on where you live, your identity, capabilities or if you can afford supplies, and sometimes you’re just not prepared,” she said. “If you identify with any of these things and need menstrual supplies, we want you to be able to walk up, roll up and get what you need. Not have to stop, give your financial documentation and wait days or weeks to be called back to a pantry.”

The name came from the idea that red is an iconic color in the world of women, and for menstruating humans, red is the color, she said.

“It is a nod to the red pen, red X, or the red line that women have walked over the last century as Americans, breaking glass ceilings and striving for equality,” she said. “It also is a nod of respect to menstruators past or present subjected to the discriminatory red-lining that occurred, specifically in my birth city, Providence.”

In the 1990s, she said she held her mother’s hand in the “bread line” off Manton Avenue.

“They didn’t have pads or tampons for her – those were a commodity,” she said. “I hope that Red.Lined.Period. can learn, grow and expand into communities that need it most.”

She said she’s reached out to school officials in Pawtucket, Providence and Central Falls, and though she hasn’t heard back, that may be because they already have programs in place.

It was only recently that menstrual supplies were added as an approved flexible spending arrangement/health savings account expenditure, she noted. SNAP and WIC, both extensions of Medicaid, don’t allow for the purchase of what she described as medically necessary supplies.

“We can say that is because they are not ‘food,’ but then let’s ask why they are not covered by Medicaid health coverage?” she said.

She said her goal is to come to the people.

“What is accessibility? It is getting what you need, where you need it,” she said.

Children start the menstruation process at age 9, sometimes 8 years old, and are completely unprepared, said Nascimento. Her groups gives the school nurse Red.Kits which are a personal discrete bag with two to three days of supplies.

“It helps them feel confident and dignified, right where they’re comfortable, in school,” she said, adding that every public school nurse in North Providence is equipped with kits and will continue to be.

“We are still looking to hear if the latest legislation will provide grants or funds to the schools, but beginning in 2022-2023, the schools will be mandated to supply the students,” she said. “Until I am told these services are not needed through Red.Lined., we will continue to show up bags full, free of charge.”

The LBGTQA+ community is a special community to the group, she said. The average American is not going to think about what specialty items a LBGTQA+ person is going to need, she emphasized, and sometimes an alternative product can be key in providing dignity during a transitionary time. Some are more convenient and cut down on bathroom breaks and reinforce dignity.

“If an alternative menstrual product is needed a person can use the website to request the supplies confidentiality and we will arrange to get them what they need if within our capacity,” she said. “We have connected with qtma.pvd who provide mutual aide to the queer and trans communities. They too can connect community members with supplies they need.

Nascimento said her idea for the organization came about when she met a homeless person as she was placing items in Providence pantries one day. That person was deeply grateful for the items, she said, emphasizing how the homeless often just use what they have.

“It’s crazy, in 2021, why is this still an issue,” she said. “It’s just not the first thing people think about.”

Nascimento, whose own child is age 9, said her attention then turned to the “huge need” in schools, where students shouldn’t have to ask someone for help.

Nascimento collects pads, tampons, liners and incontinence briefs (which are provided to the special needs schools). Visit www.redlinedperiod.org to learn more and find a bin to drop donations. There is a current GoFundMe in place that can be found at www.redlinedperiod.org . The goal is to raise funds enough to upgrade the current storage system and more importantly raise enough to register for federal nonprofit status so that the group will be able to take on bigger grants and projects, said Nascimento. Find the organization on Instagram and Facebook at red.lined.period.

Gov. Dan McKee this month signed into law a bill sponsored by state Sen. Valarie Lawson, of District 14, East Providence, and state Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, of District 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett, which would require all public schools to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost.

The legislation states that at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, all public schools teaching grades 5 through 12 shall make feminine hygiene products available in the schools.