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Ottawa police asking for donations of feminine hygiene products, other supplies for area shelters

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The Ottawa Police Service is collecting donations of feminine hygiene products and other supplies to give to shelters this December as part of its annual “Purse Project.”

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The Purse Project began in 2016 by asking the community to donate purses so the OPS could discreetly provide women in shelters with bags full of hygiene supplies.

After receiving thousands of purses in those first years, the service no longer needs them. Instead, they’re asking the public to focus on donating supplies like tampons, pads, shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes and deodorant.

“Women can’t opt-out of having their period,” said Cst. Dawn Neilly, organizer of the project. “Sometimes people will show up at these shelters and they just have the clothes on their back, right? For them, spending five or ten dollars a month on feminine products is a bit of a hardship.

“Our idea is that we can just fill the shelters with it and they can distribute it no problem and women don’t have to worry about that stress.”

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“Even though we kept the name and are so grateful for the community support, we no longer need purses and really want to focus on the products themselves. We are asking that donators do not put products in purses this year,” co-organizer Cst. Stephanie Lemieux said in an OPS media release.

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Shelters are also asking for mittens, warm socks and underwear this year. “Those are the kind of things women need,” Neilly said. Other products, like razors and shaving cream, could also be helpful, she added.

Last year, the Purse Project accumulated more than 15,000 tampons, 16,000 pads, 370 toothbrushes, 390 toothpaste tubes, nearly 350 deodorant sticks, 400 shampoo bottles, 540 bottles of hand sanitizer, 1,500 facemasks and dozens of cases of cleaning supplies and toilet paper. The supplies were provided to 10 area shelters and nine drop-in centres, Neilly said.

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“Last year, the shelters were just in awe,” she said. “I think because so much was going on with COVID but they’re just overwhelmed with the generosity of the community to be able to receive all these products.

“It’s just a nice thing for people to not have to worry about something that you don’t think of every day. Nobody ever thinks ‘I wonder if that person has money to buy pads and tampons?’ I think it’s just a sense of security.”

The donations have also helped build a connection between the OPS and the community. Neilly, who is now a detective constable working in the central criminal investigations unit, got involved with the Purse Project when she worked as a community police officer — a job she loved.

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“You get to go out in the community and actually get to know other people that actually sometimes don’t even feel comfortable with the police,” she said. “It’s the best job.”

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Her involvement with the Purse Project has allowed her to continue to be out in the community, helping gather donations and distributing them to those in need.

Several Shoppers Drug Mart locations across the city have already begun accepting donations for the project and will continue to do so through to Sunday, Dec. 12.

The following Shoppers Drug Mart stores are accepting donations:

  • 174 Bank St.
  • 702 Bank St.
  • 1080 Bank St./Sunnyside
  • 3781 Stranherd Dr.
  • 181 Greenbank Rd.

Donations can also be dropped at the Citron Hygiene warehouse at 150-2855 Swansea Crescent. Citron has partnered with the OPS to sanitize the donated products before they are sent out to shelters.

The OPS is also accepting donations directly at its headquarters at 474 Elgin St., and at two other locations: 211 Huntmar Drive, and 3343 St. Joseph Boulevard, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

All items collected will be delivered by the OPS to local shelters and drop-in centres including Minwaashin Lodge, Youth Services Bureau, Nelson House and Cornerstone Housing.

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