Duchess Pouches

Emaline Buchanan and her mother Shawna Williams show the contents of the Duchess Pouches feminine hygiene kits at Tracy's Treasures.

WASILLA — A local high school student is spending countless hours every week preparing emergency packs filled with feminine hygiene products and dropping them off at nurse’s offices across the district.

Emaline Buchanan and her mother Shawna Williams started a grassroots campaign called Duchess Pouches to support female students across the school district with donated makeup bags containing a supply of essential items to help them through their times of need.

“It’s about empowering women and, ‘it’s gonna be okay,’” Buchanan said.

Typically, female students visit their school nurse for feminine products when they find themselves without their own. Williams said they found out many nurses purchase supplies on their own to support their students, realizing they could fill a need by helping these nurses out with a steady surplus of products.

Buchanan said it started with her school, Palmer High School, and quickly across the district. They’re currently dropping off pouches at schools ranging from Colony High School to Machetanz Elementary.

“At first, it started with, ‘we have so many of these bags lying around, why don’t we just go fill them up and take them to our school nurse?’ From there, we just went to middle schools because that’s normally when students start. From there, it kind of just blew up,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said they cater bags to each age group. For example, elementary bags contain snacks and feature pads instead of tampons. She noted that it’s vital to reach all ages because periods can start as early as third grade, or even earlier in some cases.

“I understand a lot of people don’t have a supply at home like me or some of my friends do, and it is a problem,” Buchanan said.

Williams said it’s all about discretion and recognition, to meet young women where they’re at, to let them know people are thinking about them, and provide these basic amenities, especially to those with limited access. She said each bag contains their contact information so girls can anonymously request additional kits via text.

Every person is different and can’t predict when their bodies start to change. That’s why Buchanan and her mother are working to reach every school in the Valley, then keep going. Williams said they recently filed their application to become an official nonprofit organization with the overarching goal to expand to Eagle River and Anchorage. After that, they intend to take Duchess Pouches statewide.

According to Williams, their cause is being noticed as high as the state level, gaining the support of politicians such as Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford and Sen. Mike Shower. She said that donations have been pouring in at a rapid rate since they started delivering pouches earlier this month.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Williams said. People are coming to us… It’s just happening so fast,” Williams said.

Buchanan said it all started with her abundance of Ipsy monthly subscription makeup bags. She said that she’d been packing her own feminine products in these bags while giving some away to her friends. She said they went through their pile of pouches in the first three schools, utilizing community donations ever since.

Buchanan’s aunt, Tracy Lorentz, runs Tracy’s Treasures in Wasilla, which serves as one of two collection sites currently accepting makeup bags and other stylish pouches for the program. The second drop-off site is in Palmer at Misfits Consignment.

“I’m just super excited about it,” Buchanan said. “We picked Misfits Consignment and Tracy’s Treasures… because it’s all about women helping women.”

Williams said they’ve had a lot of help from family and friends in addition to the continuous public outpouring of support. She noted that they don’t feel comfortable accepting monetary donations until they become a full-fledged nonprofit, but many people have expressed interest in doing so when they’re ready.

“The Valley is a very gracious place… It’s just incredible,” Williams said.

For more information about Duchess Pouches, visit their Facebook page or email duchess.pouch@gmail.com

Misfits Consignment is located at 832 South Colony Way in downtown Palmer, and Tracy’s Treasures is located at 990 South Hermon Road, Suite 400 in Wasilla.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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