With the need for reusable menstrual products rapidly increasing comes the opening of a new and improved Days for Girls sewing center.
Working to prepare and distribute packages of period supplies to those in need both locally and internationally, the Days for Girls Alachua County Chapter quickly outgrew the confines of their old sewing center. More than 100 hundred people visited the grand opening of a more spacious facility on Sunday.
Radha Selvester, a 63-year-old Alachua resident, said she first became involved with Days for Girls in 2013 when her Girl Scout troop showed interest in sewing washable menstrual pads for young women in South Sudan.
From there, she launched the Alachua County Chapter along with her former co-chair, Dollean Perkins. Selvester has since traveled across the globe to donate menstrual kits and spread awareness of period insecurity.
“The goal is that every girl everywhere, period, will have everything she needs to manage her menstruation, so she can go to school, so she can work,” she said.
The Alachua County Chapter received a donated space in 2017 that was converted into their first sewing center, she said. When that building was sold, she said the group moved to a second facility in 2018, which could only accommodate about 10 people.
“We couldn’t fit everything on our shelves and things were piling up,” she said.
The group has now converted two former Sunday school classrooms at Wesley United Methodist Church into a new sewing center 50% larger than their previous space.
The new center can hold at least 20 people, Selvester said, allowing the group to further increase their sewing and distribution efficiency.
“When we first started, it took us six months to make 200 Days for Girls kits,” she said. “Now, we produce more than 200 kits per month.”
The facility held its grand opening on Sunday. Visitors were given a tour, shown how to create menstrual kits and even encouraged to take the packaged kits if needed.
Each package comes in a drawstring bag with multiple reusable pads and underwear. These products are hand-sewn by volunteers and interns with donated fabric.
The organization received a grant from the Kotranza Family Fund to cover the cost of giving 1,000 local women menstrual kits.
“We’ve already exceeded 1,000 right now,” Selvester said. “We’ll probably be at 12 or 1,300 by the end of the year.”
There are also 540 kits to be sent to Ukraine with brochures in Ukrainian containing instructions on how to use their contents, Selvester said.
Any unused fabric is recycled to create other products, including blankets, dog beds and teddy bears in order to make the organization zero-waste, said Michelle Belanger, the current co-chair of the Days for Girls Alachua County Chapter.
Blankets are donated to various shelters — the last 50 being shipped to Ukrainian refugees — and dog beds are distributed to families with foster animals, Belanger said.
During the opening, visitors saw the new and improved space where volunteers and interns will begin constructing menstrual kits.
The room was filled with patterned fabrics, ribbons and sewing machines organized in labeled bins. They are “really proud” of how organized they are, Selvester said.
Many volunteers sat in this new room on Sunday, cutting ribbons for drawstring bags, tracing fabric to be used and informing visitors about ways they can become involved.
Isabella Oritz, a 19-year-old UF public health sophomore, said she became an intern at Days for Girls for her health disparities minor.
“I really enjoy volunteering because I get to help others but also improve my sewing skills,” she said. “It gives me peace of mind.”
She’s happy about the new location not only because it’s larger, but also because it is closer to campus, Oritz said. Instead of a 15 minute drive, it is now about a seven minute drive, she said.
Because the organization is constantly growing and evolving, Belanger said it’ll be useful to have the space their new sewing center offers.
Rylan DiGiacomo-Rapp is a first-year Journalism major and a Metro News Assistant for The Alligator. You'll usually find her reading, watching movies and searching for creative ways to be more environmentally friendly. She loves going on spontaneous adventures and grabbing boba/coffee with friends.
Alexa Herrera is a junior journalism major who is the metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. She is also a copy editor for The Florida Political Review and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In her free time she enjoys cheering on the New York Rangers during hockey season, listening to Harry Styles and spending time with her friends.