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Mount Forest residents behind push to install free period product dispensers


Two Mount Forest residents have teamed up to tackle period poverty by installing and stocking free product dispensers in their municipality.

The entire fundraising effort was put together in just a few weeks.

It all started when Drew Nelson, 35, reached out to Kay Ayres, 75, to ask if she had any projects she needed help with.

Ayres recently heard about how challenging it was for some to afford menstrual products, and told Nelson that’s what she wanted to tackle.

“I said: ‘I think this is a real need,’” Ayres recalls. “And I was pretty sure, as a young man, he would run to the north end of Mount Forest and hide underneath a bush, like he'd have nothing to do with it. But no, he was all for it.”

“This is the two perfect people to run this and spearhead it,” Nelson added. “Because it doesn’t affect either of us fully. And we went to town with it.”

Kay Ayres and Drew Nelson in front of one of their free period product dispensers. (Krista Simpson/CTV Kitchener)

Ayres and Nelson approached the municipality, Wellington North, and received support for their idea with one condition: they had to put dispensers in both the Mount Forest & District Sports Complex and the Arthur & Area Community Centre.

The pair started fundraising and say they received a lot of support right away.

“Donations just started coming in,” Ayres recalls. “So we thought, well, maybe we are on the right track.”

They then presented their idea to the Mount Forest Lions Club, where Nelson is a member, though he still had to make a compelling case for the project.

The Lions ended up raising hundreds of dollars, as did the Leos, the group made up of the children of club members.

Kelly Dimick, the Mount Forest Lions Club president, said the groups are committed to meeting needs in the community and this is certainly a deserving one.

“People have to make choices now as to whether or not they're going to feed their kids or pay their rent or what have you,” she explained. “So I would think that products, such as feminine hygiene products, would not be a front burner item.”

The Opti-Mrs. Club in Arthur also agreed to help, sponsoring the machine that’s going into their local community centre.

Ayres and Nelson approached the municipality in February with their idea and it became a reality in a matter of weeks. The Mount Forest dispenser was installed on April 12 and the one in Arthur on May 10.

It cost about $1,100 to purchase and initially stock the dispensers, with any additional money raised going to help with restocking.

As for keeping the machines full in the future, Ayres said they have many other sources of potential fundraising that they haven’t explored yet, including local businesses.

The municipality, meanwhile, said they would pick up the cost of restocking in the future if needed.

It’s estimated as many as 4,000 people pass through the doors of each facility on a busy week, and with both buildings open to the public, the products are also accessible to those using nearby sports fields or playgrounds.

The Mount Forest & District Sports Complex on June 18, 2024. (Krista Simpson/CTV Kitchener)

The project is called “Womens Needs, Period!” but both dispensers are installed outside the washrooms and are easily accessible to anyone.

Ayres and Nelson say that, while some people have been critical of the placement, the goal is simply to get pads and tampons to those who need them the most.

“We are here just to provide a product,” Nelson said, adding they aren’t making political statements of any kind.

Municipal staff are taking care of monitoring and refilling the machines, to make sure supplies are always available.

“People can come in, get the product safely, discreetly, and their needs are met,” said Nelson, adding the goal is to help anyone who could use a pad or tampon, whether they struggle to afford products or just find themselves without one at a time of need.

Ayres hopes the success of their project will be an example to other communities.

“I’m just thrilled to have this opportunity that, maybe out of this, some other town will do the same thing,” Ayres explained. “That’s my goal.” Top Stories

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