For our first Community Partner Spotlight, we are excited to introduce you to Sylvia's Sisters! We met Jennifer Taylor a little over a year ago, pre-COVID when we were both presenting to Brandermill Woman's Club, one of our donors. With our shared goal to increase access to needed products, we quickly forged a partnership, and in May 2020, Sylvia's Sisters began providing us with female hygiene products to distribute at our Mobile Produce Pantry locations!
Jennifer's passion for education and improving access to menstrual hygiene products was apparent the first day we met, and it jumps off the page in this interview. Her drive is an inspiring reminder that we are nothing without our partners and it's only when we work together, will our community effectively be of service.
Q: Who are you and where are you from?
A: Hi! I am Jennifer Bishop Taylor, president and founder of Sylvia’s Sisters. Sylvia’s Sisters is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that provides period products to menstruators in need. I am only one of several Sylvia’s Sisters volunteers who have been involved in supporting this 7-year-old organization.
I grew up in a small town in West Tennessee. I graduated from The University of Tennessee at Martin in 1979 with a B.S. in Home Economics - Early Childhood Education. After graduation, I married and moved to St. Louis, Mo. My husband and I lived in St. Louis for 15 years. In 1994 my husband was transferred by his company to a new research facility in downtown Richmond. With our 6-year-old son in tow, we moved from St. Louis to Richmond, VA. We have lived in Chesterfield, VA ever since.
Sylvia’s Sisters’ mission is to provide free period products and feminine hygiene education to menstruators who have no access to basic hygiene needs due to poverty and/or the lack of availability.
Q: What's your mission and the community you serve?
A: Sylvia’s Sisters’ mission is to provide free period products and feminine hygiene education to menstruators who have no access to basic hygiene needs due to poverty and/or the lack of availability.
With our donors and volunteers, we serve two different communities with products. Internationally, we provide several villages in rural Uganda with washable/reusable period kits. We buy these kits, in-country, through a Ugandan company called AFRIpads and donate them to schoolgirls in need.
Locally, we serve Central Virginia menstruators in need and distribute through partner agencies (e.g., food banks, Communities-in-Schools, World-UP, etc.) who provide food and basic needs to our most vulnerable citizens.
"Community starts as a small close number of people who have something in common either geographically, by ethnicity, by shared ideology, or other commonalities. They are the subsets of the set or the bigger population, the world."
Q: What does community mean to you?
A: I have always thought of community mathematically. This is odd since I stink at math! Community starts as a small close number of people who have something in common either geographically, by ethnicity, by shared ideology, or other commonalities. They are the subsets of the set or the bigger population, the world. Each of these communities has something of value and when brought together to help each other it equals a massive amount of manpower. It is good to work inside and outside of your community because together we are strong. Just like the strings that make up a rope.
Q: What's the change you would like to see in Richmond?
A: I think that we are already seeing some small positive change in the areas of diversity and inclusivity since I first arrived in Richmond. At the same time, we have recently seen an uptick in certain communities where ignorance and racism have raised its head lashing out at the little progress that has been made. I would love to see a steady increase of these positive changes, more willingness for people to cross lines that divide people culturally and economically, and more acceptance of all persons.
Q: What do you love about Richmond?
A: I love the size of Richmond. It is perfect and works well for non-profits. Through my work with Sylvia’s Sisters, I have been able to work with both small and large community-based partner agencies, forming a bond to promote each other’s work in RVA. The willingness to come together to serve the underserved is amazing. People in Richmond have very giving hearts. Because of its size, communities are close to each other geographically and see what is happening in each area. Once you explain someone’s need and how they can help, Richmond comes together to make it happen.
Q: How does your organization promote Understanding and Peace?
A: Each time a partner agency receives a donation of period products from Sylvia’s Sisters, they are required to sign an MOU agreeing to give products to persons in need, free of charge, regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference. Our partner agencies, donors, volunteers, and recipients of period products are a diverse population.
Q: What values did you see in World U.P. that made you want to partner with us?
A: We know that many people in need also have a hard time providing adequate food for their families. Fresh produce is necessary for a healthy diet. World UP not only provides this to families, but they also take it to them, and they let families choose what they like and need. Offering choices speaks loudly to World UP’s respect for people and the pride all individuals seek to have in themselves.
Period poverty …. the lack of hygiene products for menstruators because of their economic situation…. exists in part because people do not talk about menstruation in public.
Q: How can people support your mission?
A: Period poverty …. the lack of hygiene products for menstruators because of their economic situation…. exists in part because people do not talk about menstruation in public. It is important to learn and talk about the issue of food and basic needs insecurities that exist today. Sylvia’s Sisters is always looking for volunteers who would like to conduct period product drives through their church, community group, or school. Sylvia’s Sisters also gladly accepts monetary donations, which we use to purchase products for distribution at the most economical bulk prices we can find.
Sylvia’s Sisters is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible. Please visit our website for how you can donate through PayPal, Credit Card, or Check.
Q: How can people find more about you/contact you?
A: Through any of the places below!
P.O. Box 4904
Midlothian, VA 23112
World U.P. was granted permission by our partner organization to share the photos and interview answers publicly across our website and social media profiles. These interviews answers presented are the words of the partner organization, and have been minimally edited by World U.P. Foundation. World U.P. Foundation is not responsible for the answers or the images.