The Quakes and Wells Fargo are humbled and inspired by the amazing work of our frontline communities and neighbors in this time of crisis. Each week, we’ll be featuring and highlighting the work of one fantastic neighborhood hero, showcasing the great work they are doing and the organizations our community can rally around.
Additionally, a donation will be made to an organization or community project on behalf of each week’s hero. This week we will be donating to HomeFirst.
In 2014, Amy Pizarro read an article about the struggles of homeless women not having access to feminine hygiene products. The article shared by her friend detailed various ways in which unhoused women go to great, uncomfortable lengths to take care of themselves when they are menstruating. It struck a chord with Amy, and she felt called to do something about it.
In 2015, Amy invited a few friends to her house for a party. She would provide the appetizers and drinks, if guests would provide the feminine hygiene products. All products would be donated to a local homeless resource center.
In its inaugural year, Amy hosted 40 women packed into her home for the first-ever “Pad Party.” Those 40 women brought in over 10,000 feminine hygiene products to be donated to HomeFirst Services, a provider of services and housing opportunities for those at risk of homelessness in Santa Clara County.
The momentum behind this idea was powered by a mutual spirit of generosity between women. Those involved in this mission believe in replacing embarrassment with dignity, and humiliation with health.
Weeks later, people were still talking about it. After the first party, Amy met the owner of Cafe Stritch on 1st Street who offered the restaurant as a space for the parties to be held, which allowed the effort to grow even bigger.
Since that meeting, the Pad Party took over Cafe Stritch once every year, with plenty of room for all the attendees and donations. Last year’s event totaled 86,146 products to be distributed to women and teens all over Santa Clara County.
It has become increasingly clear that the Pad Parties are not solely a fun way to help those in need, but are a necessary and needed annual event to gather supplies that many HomeFirst clients rely on.
The landscape of the Pad Party looked quite different in 2020. The party was still on, but Amy planned a drive-by, drop-off event at her house in downtown San Jose instead of the usual venue. People were encouraged to participate either through dropping off their supplies or mailing donations in advance.
The event looked more like a block party, as roughly 50 cars drove by Amy’s house on the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 27 during the 3-hour drop off window she had set. Amy was surrounded by help from her family and HomeFirst volunteers, to new neighbors who saw the operation in action and wanted to help.
“It was incredible,” says Amy, “car after car after car, of the happiest people who were thrilled to support this cause.”
For the first time, the 2020 Pad Party donation totals reached six-digits— on a year they couldn’t hold a party due to a global pandemic. This feat made it clear to Amy and her Pad Party community that though the need is constant, people are wanting to do something about it, and not even a pandemic will limit them.
At least 10 women have been inspired by Amy to make their own campaigns among their network of friends. “I’ve lost track of how many women have led their own drives,” says Amy. “Women feel like it speaks to them,” she says.
Their totals from this year’s drive-by event reached 107,028 items. Included in this number are 52,879 pads, 40,527 tampons, 12,131 incontinence products, 1,451 pairs of women’s underwear and 40 packages of wipes. Over 7,000 items trickled in even after the event. The community also collectively donated $6,675 in cash to replenish supplies in the future.
“Volunteers moved 100,000 products out of my house into the HomeFirst trucks,” Amy says. “It was the most heart I’ve ever seen at this event.”
Once the donations are given to HomeFirst, Amy’s job is done. The HomeFirst staff and volunteers take care of distribution to those in need. Any clients at HomeFirst that ask for supplies are not just given a days’ worth, but given a month’s supply. The staff and volunteers at the facility also sort the donations to divide them into grab-and-go bags. This makes the distribution efficient and provides clients with an assortment of supplies sufficient to last a while.
The Pad Party network has donated so many products over the years that HomeFirst has their own storage unit of these hygiene products, so they can also share the items with other homeless agencies. “They have been wonderful, flexible partners as this effort has grown every year by leaps and bounds,” says Amy.
Though it was a completely different operation from the standard blueprint, Amy and the Pad Party community were fueled by helping those in need at this particularly challenging time. Amidst changes, they managed to exceed their 2019 numbers by roughly 21,000 items.
“This is supporting women,” says Amy. “It’s the formula of the good that we do together.”