Dignity Drive Starr.jpg

Anthony Starr, Western Piedmont Council of Governments executive director sharing at the press conference in which the Regional Housing Authority was designated as one of 17 housing authorities nationwide to receive the EnVision Center Designation in June 2018. 

The Western Piedmont Council of Governments’ Regional Housing Authority/EnVision Center is holding a drive to provide feminine products for underserved women throughout the Unifour region.

The donation drive is called Dignity Drive 2020 and is the second event WPCOG has held. WPCOG is a voluntary association of local governments organized as a nonprofit group to provide long-range planning and technical assistance, according to its website.

The monthlong drive will last throughout February and accepts donations including cleansing wipes, pads, tampons, panty liners and monetary or gift card donations for the purchase of these items. The goals of the drive are to prevent infection and illness, preserve dignity, prevent embarrassment, provide freedom to walk and play comfortably and enable women and girls to give appropriate value to their bodies and their health, according to the drive’s press release.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development launched the EnVision Center Demonstration in 17 communities around the country to connect low-income households with a variety of resources and tools that offer pathways to economic opportunity and self-sufficiency, according to a previous press release published by The News Herald.

The idea for the drive came from Kala Guido, a housing specialist with the Regional Housing Authority/EnVision Center at WPCOG.

“I was working with some college students that mentioned not having access to these (feminine/hygiene) products,” Guido said. “At times, when people don’t have the money for products, they’re forced to decide between buying products and paying utility bills. So girls — especially homeless women — just end up trying to protect themselves.”

The Dignity Drive is an event that carries special meaning to Guido, as she had her first child while enrolled in college at Appalachian State.

“We partner with more people in the community to help navigate our customers from one service to another so that they can hopefully become self-sufficient,” Guido said. “If you’re making the choice between paying your rent and feeding your family, those are hard decisions to make.”

In addition to its Regional Housing Authority/EnVision Center department, WPCOG offers a wide range of services, including workforce development, transportation planning, administrative/financial services and community/economic development and technology services. The Council of Governments also has an area Agency on Aging department and Americans with Disabilities Act.

There are currently five locations where people can drop-off donations, including the Burke Senior Center located at 501 N. Green St. in Morganton. The organizations that will receive the products to distribute to women and girls in need are Burke United Christian Ministries and Meeting Place Mission.

Last year’s donation drive took place in February and lasted only two weeks. Though the drive occurred only in Burke and Catawba counties and planning for the event was done “randomly,” Guido and her team still managed to collect more than 9,000 items, she said.

When asked what it means for her to be able to help women in need, Guido couldn’t help but smile and reflect on how she once was in the same position that many women are in today.

“It puts a huge smile on my face,” Guido said. “I sometimes giggle in honest disbelief that I get to do this. As a child, you picture your marriage and you picture your life or future. Then, you end up pregnant at 18 and think, ‘Oh gosh, all those little dreams and pictures and visions will possibly not come true.

“Then, 10 to 12 years later, you’re working at Western Piedmont Council of Governments and get to help other women in need.”

To donate money to Dignity Drive 2020, send donations to Western Piedmont Council of Governments Attn: EnVision Center, P.O. Box 9026 in Hickory, N.C. 28603. Other drop-off locations include Startown Elementary School in Newton, Everett Chevrolet in Hickory, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, and WPCOG.

To request a donation box, contact Guido at 828-485-4282 or at kala.guido@wpcog.org.

To view the Dignity Drive 2020 wish list on Amazon, visit https://amzn.to/2QWT6gB.

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