Days for Girls celebrates fifth anniversary

CRESCO - The Cresco, IA Team of Days for Girls International met Tuesday, Aug. 16 for a regular sewing workshop and to celebrate its fifth anniversary.  
Guests of honor were Marcella Keune, accompanied by her daughter Martha Keune.  Marcella gave the initial lesson on “Feminine Hygiene Issues in Africa” from the Zion United Methodist Women’s Lesson book in 2017. Other guests were Ginny Bass, the Upper Midwest Regional Representative for Days for Girls (Iowa and Minnesota), her friend, Diane Slade, both of La Porte City, Iowa and Pat Ratashek of Decorah, who has been associated with other Days for Girls teams, and would like to start a team in Decorah. 
Days for Girls International was started in 2008 by a Seattle, Wash. woman, Celeste Mergans.  She had taken food to an orphanage in Africa, and returned home.  She woke up wondering, “What do the girls do for their monthly period?” She emailed the director of the orphanage, who replied, “Nothing.  They sit on cardboard, old newspapers, corn cobs or whatever in their rooms.  They aren’t allowed to go to school or work during that time.” 
Mergans immediately got some of her friends together, and they made white fabric pads. When they sent them to the orphanage, they soon found out that there was no place to dispose of the pads. Through 19 revisions of that original item, Days for Girls now has served over 2.5 million women, girls and people with periods in 144 countries . . . and counting! 
The Days for Girls International pamphlet states, “What if not having sanitary supplies meant days without school, days without income, days without leaving the house?”
“Girls use socks, mattress stuffing, newspapers, corn husks, rocks, anything they can find. . .but often miss 3-5 days of school every month. 
“Resolving this issue is key to social change for women all over the world. The poverty cycle can be broken when girls stay in school.” 
The Days for Girls Cresco, IA Team first started learning how to make the bags, shields and liners on June 15, 2017.  
Hazel Smith of Riceville came that afternoon as the group’s mentor and then joined the group. 
Gaye Pedersen said, “We had asked the pastor if we could use the basement of the Cresco First United Methodist Church to start sewing.  She gave her permission, and the Administrative Board later made it official. We’re allowed one day a month and no charge for heat or electricity, since we’re now considered one of their missions.”
The group has grown over the years to as many as 20 ecumenical volunteers. There are many jobs that don’t require sewing skills.  Tasks include sewing the cotton bags, the cotton shields, which contain a waterproof lining, and the flannel liners. Those who don’t want to sew can cut and thread ribbon in bags, cut or iron fabric, trace patterns or other easy jobs.
 A Days for Girls kit contains one drawstring bag, two moisture barrier shields, eight absorbent tri-fold liners, a carry pouch for washing, one washcloth, two pairs of panties, one travel-size soap and one instruction sheet. Each Kit usually lasts up to three years. 
The women and girls are also taught about the menstrual cycle and their bodies by Ambassadors of Women’s Health. These Ambassadors can be missionaries or ladies in their own local region who have had specialized training. 
The local Cresco, IA Team has sewn at least 2,353 shields, 1,566 bags, 8,892 liners, and 56 carry pouches, (which recently replaced gallon Ziploc freezer bags). Pederson noted, “We have also purchased at least 250 washcloths, many packages of girls’ and women’s panties, and boxes of bar soap. Some of our members who travel have donated boxes of the soaps from hotel and motel chains.”
Donations of dark printed flannel or dark printed quilter’s cotton are always welcome, and 100% of financial support goes to purchasing necessary items for making the kits.
The group meets the third Tuesday of each month in the basement of the Cresco First United Methodist Church, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Anyone is welcome to join, to help or even just see the process. 
Please get in touch with Pedersen, 563-203-0289 or Marge Johnson 563-380-0962, or email, if you have any questions.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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