Passing It Forward
It’s a simple concept: provide feminine hygiene products in makeup bags to young women at school when they forget to bring their own or don’t have access to these products, which can be expensive.
But it’s an idea that, put into action, makes all the difference. And Dori Hefner, a senior at Jackson High School, has made this idea reality for young women at 23 regional schools through her project Dori’s Compassion Packs.
It’s an issue she saw her peers struggling with, and an experience she can relate to — the predicament of not having what she needed when she needed it. Dori says she once forgot to bring products with her to school and felt “embarrassed” when she had to go to the nurse’s office to get them, calling it the “walk of shame.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is such a minute problem that I have, but this is a real problem that a lot of people face,’” Dori says. “And that goes for more than just feminine hygiene — it literally goes for a lot of things for girls and guys both.”
After this experience, as she was going into her junior year of high school, she saw on Facebook that someone was reusing makeup bags to distribute tampons and pads to people who are homeless; Dori recalls thinking the idea would work well for students at her own school, too. She posted a call for makeup bags on social media and says “it turned into this huge thing” she never could have foreseen.
Although she initially thought she would only distribute the compassion packs to Jackson middle, junior high and high schools, as more makeup bags and monetary donations began coming in, she decided to expand the project to include Cape Central’s middle, junior high and high schools. And when people continued to donate materials and funds, she decided to widen the project’s reach even further, into southern Illinois, the Bootheel and schools north of Jackson.
Currently, Dori has sent compassion packs to 23 schools, from Fredericktown to Puxico to Hayti, Mo., to name a few. She sends 20 to 40 packs at a time to each school and goes through the list before sending another batch of compassion packs to the same school. In the early days of the project, she included a handwritten note in each pack; now that the project has grown and she sometimes makes 500 packs at a time, she includes a business card with her name, social media handles and the message “Been there, done that. I hope this brightens your day.” The back of each card includes Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT): “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything.”
Dori cites her grandmother who was an English teacher at Jackson High School, Saxony Lutheran High School and Southeast Missouri State University as her inspiration. Her grandmother, Dori says, was one of the teachers who helped bring the AP program to Jackson High School, and she looked out for students who were close to dropping out. Although she did not have extra things for herself or her family, Dori says her grandmother always gave to others and took others in. She considered those who had special needs, too, through efforts like providing alternative choices to candy at Halloween.
“There’s still students that reach out to me and my mom that [my grandma taught] 20 years ago. And there’s a lot of students that were going through a lot of issues at that time, and she dramatically changed their lives just by being nice, really,” Dori says. “She always advocated for others, and that was always instilled in me as a kid, and that’s what me and my mom strive to be now.”
After she graduates, Dori says she is considering potentially becoming a teacher. In the near future, however, she hopes to expand Dori’s Compassion Packs even more, reaching out to people outside of schools who are in need.
“I feel like [people who receive a compassion pack] can use that experience and pass it on to others,” Dori says. “It really changes your life when you’re really changing theirs because it just makes you think and makes you more grateful for what you have.”
To donate to Dori’s Compassion Packs, message her on Instagram, @doriscompassionpacks or on Facebook, /Doris-Compassion-Packs.