Personal care banks pop up across Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic

Toronto initiative provides menstrual products for the community. But, what actually is a personal care bank and how does it work?

The Personal Care Bank set up outside of Black Diamond Vintage at 1614 Queen St. W.
The Personal Care Bank outside of Black Diamond Vintage at 1614 Queen St. W. (TPCB) 

Colourful, impossible-to-miss personal care banks are popping up across Toronto. They contain feminine hygiene products that are available to anyone in need. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting access to feminine hygiene products, an organization called The Personal Care Bank (TPCB) is filling up cabinets filled with free personal care items.

So what exactly is TPCB, and how can it help provide universal access to feminine hygiene products? 

What is TPCB and how does it work? 

TPCB is a community-run initiative of care banks filled with free feminine hygiene products placed outside of frequented stores in specific areas around the city. 

“The mission of The Personal Care Bank is to make personal care items accessible to all,” William Hanlon, the founder of The Personal Care Bank said.

“These banks are a safe place for people to take what they need without judgement.”

After helping stock Community Fridges Toronto (CFTO) with personal care items for a while, he collaborated with CFTO team members to create TPCB as a separate initiative in May 2019.

Each day, TPCB team drives by the banks to do a quality control check to remove any unwanted, outdated donations and ensure the care banks stay stocked with products such as tampons, maxi pads, toothpaste and more.

Anyone can donate items to the personal care bank as long as they are unused and in-date items. 

TPCB website contains a list of items that can and cannot be donated. People can drop off items directly to the personal care bank closest to them or donate money on The Personal Care Bank website. “We took a very long time deciding what would be accepted and what wouldn’t be accepted. It is about keeping our communities safe while providing the best experience we can to those in need,” Hanlon said. 

Individuals can also send requests to TPCB’s email to add items to the list of things that can be donated. 

All banks contain different personal care items depending on what is donated. “Each day is something new, and no banks are the same,” Hanlon said.

The banks are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year except for the bank located outside of Hard Feelings, a storefront that aims to improve access to mental health support, which is open from noon to 6:00 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays. TPCB currently has five locations around the city, including 1614 Queen St. W., 32 Dundas St. W., 848 Bloor St. W., 250 Westlake Ave. East. and 1614 Gerrard St. E., located outside of the Non-Sensical Society for Kids. 

“We want our banks in the communities that need this extra boost,” Hanlon said.

TPCB locations are determined by the demand for personal care items in specific communities. When a community is identified, Hanlon said he looks for businesses within the area that are passionate about social causes and willing to put a care bank outside of their shop. 

Bank locations

Hanlon said that it hasn’t always been rainbows and sunshine, and that TPCB has experienced road bumps with care banks at certain locations.  

Once the executive director at Hard Feelings, Kate Scowan, noticed that TPCB was a thing she reached out to Hanlon to set up a care bank outside of the storefront. But, the care bank at Hard Feelings was stolen within the first two days it was set up.

The new care bank outside of Hard Feelings located at 1614 Queen St. W. This care bank is a recreation of the old care bank outside of Hard Feelings after the first one was stolen.

“The Personal Care Bank had to go back to the artist and get another one. Now we have a lock but, its been really well used,” Anisa Rawhani, a staff at Hard Feelings, said. 

Rawhani said that overall hosting a care bank outside of Hard Feelings has been a positive experience. “I think it’s a really positive experience because it connects the community with the realities of how challenging it can be to access personal care products,” Rawhani said. 

TPCB is expanding. New locations are opening in Kensington, Mimico and Queen Street East soon.

Why should people care about TPCB?

TPCB provides a destigmatized option for those in need of personal care items while helping end affected access to feminine hygiene products during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We see personal care as a right and believe that everyone should have access to the right products that keep them healthy and confident,” Hanlon said.

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Posted: Feb 23 2022 7:37 pm
Filed under: Features News Spotlight On Small Biz