Kate Mistler, right, and Kristi Lovelady stand outside Walmart Tuesday to collect bras, tampons and sanitary pads for local women in need. Mistler is working to bring the organization I Support the Girls to Whidbey Island to ensure the effort is ongoing. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

Kate Mistler, right, and Kristi Lovelady stand outside Walmart Tuesday to collect bras, tampons and sanitary pads for local women in need. Mistler is working to bring the organization I Support the Girls to Whidbey Island to ensure the effort is ongoing. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

Oak Harbor woman collects personal items for women in need

Gravity impacts everyone, but for women it can present its unique challenges. Oak Harbor resident Kate Mistler is offering support.

The bra as we know it today was invented in 1914, but females had been using other methods of containment for ages. For most women, they’re considered a necessity. But when clothing drives and donations are made to benefit homeless or low-income people, those items are often overlooked.

Mistler recently learned about the nonprofit organization I Support the Girls, which collects and distributes bras and feminine hygiene products to local women in need.

“It made me feel guilty because it’s something I should’ve thought of before but never did,” she said. “It’s something we take for granted.”

There are 50 affiliates of the organization across the U.S. and abroad, but Mistler noticed lack of presence on the West Coast. She emailed its members and is on her way to becoming an official affiliate.

For now, she’s doing all she can to address the issue but she said she could use help. Last Tuesday she and her friend Kristi Lovelady stood outside Walmart for five hours with a poster board explaining the issue and a box full of bras, sanitary pads and tampons.

“We’re getting the word out, and it’s going better than I anticipated,” Mistler said.

Since then, her efforts have only ramped up. She has arranged to take collections in front of Walmart again Tuesday, March 19; Saturday, April 13 and Saturday, April 27. She placed a garbage bin —- decorated with bright drawings of a bra, tampon and sanitary pad —- for collections in front of her house and will accept donations at any time. She’s been in contact with The Goose Community Grocer in Langley and Payless Foods in Freeland about setting up a table and collecting on the South End as well.

If groups get together and collect several items, she said she’ll pick them up. One of her contributors chooses to remain anonymous and orders donations online and ships them to Mistler, she said.

Every item collected will be distributed locally, she said.

She logs and tracks each product she receives and fills bags with assorted sizes and feminine hygiene products. She has dropped off the collections at the Whidbey Homeless Coalition and Ryan’s House and plans on stopping at the Haven homeless shelter and the Garage of Blessings soon.

She’s hoping more volunteers will step up as the word gets out.

She only learned about I Support the Girls a month ago after watching an episode of the Facebook series “Returning the Favor.”

“I’ve always donated to different causes,” Mistler said, “but I’ve never gotten into it full bore like I am now.”

As she watched the show, she was struck by stories of women using cardboard or newspapers in lieu of sanitary pads. She knows people are sometimes uncomfortable talking about menstruation or bras, but she’s trying to change that because it’s a real issue facing women in the community.

Eventually, she wants to expand the cause to the regional level.

“We are trying to bring awareness here,” she said. “And this is just the beginning.”

• To learn more about donating or volunteering, contact Kate Mistler at 360-678-2090 or paminron@gmail.com. Donations can be delivered or shipped to 1008 Diane Ave., Oak Harbor, WA 98277

More in Life

Record number seeking roles in Shakespeare Festival

Three plays, 46 performances and 147 days until opening night.And 218 actors… Continue reading

Whidbey couple wins $50,000 in state lottery

So many things could have gone differently the day Betsy and Amir… Continue reading

South Whidbey fisherman takes up a new type of tackle

South Whidbey resident John Norris is hunting for treasure. But he isn’t… Continue reading

Coupeville teacher takes a novel approach to Holocaust lesson planning

Coupeville eighth grader Jones Walther recognizes that it’s easy to remove oneself… Continue reading

Exhibits, parade mark 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage

Before the 19th Amendment was finally ratified in 1920, women across America… Continue reading

M*A*S*H hit takes to Playhouse stage

It may have been more than 60 years since the Korean War… Continue reading

Chocolate Walk to feature storytelling competition

In addition to the rich flavor derived from the delectable cocoa bean,… Continue reading

Playtown opens for city’s littlest residents

Last Thursday afternoon, Ethan Boswell busily hammered away, wearing a fluorescent orange… Continue reading

Activists wrap kids in care

Combining the generosity and artistry of the South Whidbey community with a… Continue reading

Whidbey Reads 2020 book focuses on gender identity

Don’t fret if you’re not ready for Whidbey Reads 2020. All five… Continue reading

Orca poo, salmon restoration focus of whale workshop

As captivating as whales are to observe, there’s a lot of information… Continue reading

Whidbey activists craft pouches to help orphaned baby wildlife in Australia

In some cases, social media really can serve as the great unifier.… Continue reading