If you wrong a Minnesotan, it won't be forgotten.
If you wrong the former mayor of West St. Paul, her constituents will not rest until they find a way to make it right.
Katie Dohman pulled up to a Costco loading dock and watched with delight as workers filled her vehicle with thousands of dollars worth of tampons and maxi pads.
"You start to feel like the tampon fairy godmothers and fathers," said Dohman, one of the organizers of an annual West St. Paul donation drive that collects the often-requested, seldom-donated sanitary products area charities desperately need.
Anyone who's menstruated knows the dread of finding yourself without. If you're lucky, you also know the feeling of relief when a hand appears under the bathroom stall to pass you a spare.
For the past four years, the Women of West St. Paul have been that helping hand, raising thousands of dollars and collecting hundreds of pounds of donated sanitary products.
It's a project that started as a protest.
It was a protest that started with a creep who crept through the night in 2018 to dump a box of maxi pads, topped with a bow, on the doorstep of West St. Paul's first female mayor.
If you remember the story, Mayor Jenny Thompson Halverson was trying to name three new appointees to city commissions when she ran into fierce resistance from some members of the all-male City Council. All three of her nominees were women, which seemed excessive to some. How many women, after all, do you really need in any given hall of government?
Tempers flared, the council blocked one of her appointees, and the mayor, near the end of her term, put out a call to the women of West St. Paul. For six years, she'd been the only woman at the table. It was time for the community to step up.
And then she delivered a message to the council chambers.
"This won't be forgotten, folks."
The bow-topped maxi pads and a pack of tissues arrived at her door that night. A second box was delivered to the woman she was trying to appoint to the planning board.
For half the population, this was a familiar middle school taunt. Girls are icky. You can't trust any creature that bleeds for days without dying.
When Halverson arrived for the next City Council meeting, more than 150 women of West St. Paul were at her back, carrying armloads of tampons and maxi pads; wearing "this won't be forgotten" buttons; testifying for hours about how marginalized their own city had made them feel.
Wendy Berry stepped up that night to announce she was running for City Council.
"It could have scared a lot of people away," Berry said of the creepy maxi pad drop. Instead, she said, the community came together "to say no, we're not going to let this happen here."
Berry won her seat on the council. Women hold the majority of seats on the West St. Paul council these days, for the first time in the city's history.
All the pads and tampons delivered to the council chambers four years ago were collected and donated — and suddenly this wasn't just about standing up to a creep in the night.
What started as a single act of protest turned into a community tradition. Even in the middle of the death and chaos of 2020. Especially then. All donations raised in 2020 went directly to mutual aid sites across the Twin Cities, in neighborhoods where riots and arson had emptied grocery stores and shops of basic staples.
"I wish I had taken a picture when they opened the trunk and saw it was just tampons and pads," Dohman said with a laugh, remembering one delivery. "They were so thrilled. They were like, 'Nobody brings this.' And every single mutual aid site was saying, 'We need hygiene products.' "
This year, people could donate in person again. Organizer Chris Gevara watched them walk up with huge smiles and armloads of items. People's eyes light up when she tells them about the pad drive, with all the excitement of a Minnesotan discovering a whole new way to help a neighbor out.
One of this year's donors was an 8-year-old girl, who pooled her money with a friend to buy products for the pad drive. The girl's grandmother told Gevara the girls did it "because they realized there were people out there who needed help, and [they] wanted to help."
"What keeps us going," Gevara said, "is making good out of bad."
This year's pad drive will benefit Neighbors Inc. To learn more or to donate, visit womenofwsp.com