Lillian Alter, 15, Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Youth Hero

Lillian Alter, 15, Honored as American Red Cross 2017 Youth Hero

Lily Alter was 14 years old when she turned a school writing assignment into a real-world project helping hundreds of homeless girls and women in need.

In the spring of 2016, Lily’s teacher assigned her class to write mock grant proposals each addressing a societal problem. Lily had volunteered in homeless shelters since she was five years old and had witnessed the difficulties that homeless girls and women face. With few economic resources, little storage space and virtually no privacy,
homeless women have an extremely challenging time getting and storing the products they need during menstruation.

Lily had a solution.

“The most vulnerable people in our society should not be subjected to these kinds of indignities, like not having the most basic products to meet this need,” said Lily.

She wrote a grant proposal addressing this issue and then took it one enormous step further: she created a real program to tackle it.

Lily started with a crowdfunding site to raise money to assemble packages of menstrual items for women in need to be distributed at shelters. This became a program called Flow Kits. With donations ranging from $5 to $500, Lily raised nearly $11,000 and has assembled and distributed more than 400 Flow Kits.

“I think it was the people around me who were so supportive that sparked my drive to work to solve this problem,” said Lily. “Initially I thought a tampon drive would be helpful, but after researching it, I realized a long-lasting campaign might be better.”

Lily had help from her friends from the beginning. “They helped me pack the first kit.” And, together they run a Facebook page that has helped spread the word. Lily remembers giving away the first kit to a young Mom with a two-year-old child. “I felt so happy,” she said. In another instance, Lily gave a kit to a mother and her young daughter, who later told her that it was the most helpful thing that had happened to her that week.

“I don’t think women are used to being individually approached and asked if they have needs,” said Lily. “Homelessness can look any way. There is something to be said for talking to people directly. It puts things into perspective.”
In the coming months, Lily will continue to work with shelters and looks forward to a new collaboration with the Night Ministry. She plans to keep working on this project for years to come.

“In an ideal world, I would not be doing this. Tampons and pads would be free or so cheap that anyone could buy them. They would be offered in public restrooms with the toilet paper, soap, and paper towels that are all already
there,” said Lily.

The Youth Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who is 17 years old or under and has performed an act of heroism involving an unusual, significant or unexpected incident, or is involved in an ongoing situation in which a commitment is made to the community through acts of kindness, courage, or unselfishness in response to an identified need.

Follow #RedCrossHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about the 2017 Heroes. For more information about the 2017 Heroes Breakfast, click here.

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