Nominated by the Catherine McAuley Center and Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois as Outstanding Philanthropic Youth, Emma Barton-Norris is a Cedar Rapids local and a 2019 graduate of Washington High School. She was a member of the Girl Scouts for six years throughout elementary and middle school and continued pursuing the Gold Award even after her troop disbanded. To earn a Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, a girl begins with identifying a problem in her community and establishing a project that addresses the “root cause”
of the issue. This project takes at least 80 hours and must be sustainable in subsequent years.
Emma decided to address the accessibility of feminine hygiene products by women in lower socio-economic situations. She organized students in her school to host an annual hygiene product drive to benefit women in the Catherine McAuley Center’s Transitional Housing Program, who receive a welcome basket with bedding, food, toiletries, and feminine hygiene products when they enter the program. Emma collected more than $400 worth of pads and tampons in the first year and arranged for her high school’s student government to continue the supply drive for the Catherine McAuley Center every year.
“Our need for donations is ongoing,” said Selah Ulmer, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center. “Our goal is to remove barriers to stability. Not having to worry about being able to afford supplies such as pads or tampons is a small, but important part of that.”
Emma did not stop there and began educating herself and others about the fact that unlike many basic necessities, feminine hygiene products are subject to local and state sales taxes. “It’s obviously not a luxury. It’s a necessity,” said Emma, “And 50 percent of the population is female.” She held a letter writing campaign among friends and family to contact their government representatives about the “pink tax” and to encourage them to increase access to these necessary products for low-income women and girls. Furthermore, she met with State Senator Rob Hogg, hosted a booth at NewBo City Market and created a website in order to raise awareness of the issue and educate community members. Donations of feminine hygiene products to the Catherine McAuley Center have significantly increased since Emma’s Gold Award project attracted local media attention.
Emma is pursuing a degree in History at Northern Illinois University and plans to continue her education at the University of Iowa to obtain a Master’s in Library Science.