May 24, 2023  

Helping girls access a critical resource

Alexandra Soto is using One Smile at a Time by PepsiCo to organize volunteer activities that advocate for girls in her local community.

“There were times where my parents would have to go to a food bank to make sure that there was food on the table for us,” says Alexandra Soto. As Haitian immigrants building a life in Brooklyn, New York, her parents leaned on their local community for support in times of need. They taught Alexandra how they could return that support by volunteering at a nearby soup kitchen and nursing home.

“My father always said giving your time means a lot more than a check,” says Alexandra, a Sales Associate Manager at PepsiCo. “You can't get time back. You're truly invested.” Guided by his example, she’s grown to be just as invested in her Long Island, New York, community today. “You never know when you're going to be the person who needs help,” says Alexandra.  

Alexandra Soto standing beside her father

Alexandra with her father.

Starting with One Smile at a Time

One Smile at a Time by PepsiCo has provided a platform to amplify her volunteer efforts. As a co-chair of PepsiCo’s Women’s History Month programming, Alexandra scouted opportunities that support organizations that target issues of gender inequity. After discovering the mission of Girls Inc., Alexandra found a partner for her March events. “Girls Inc.’s entire goal is to equip girls so they can face the socioeconomic barriers and gender barriers that we have in this world,” she says. 

Alexandra organized teams to pack feminine hygiene kits at PepsiCo’s headquarters in Purchase, New York. Associates in Chicago and Los Angeles created similar gatherings with Girls Inc. chapters in their locations. PepsiCo’s digital platform was an essential tool in connecting those who want to participate. One Smile at a Time by PepsiCo allows associates around the globe to join or create volunteer opportunities — whether they want to plan a beach cleanup for hundreds or spend an hour on their own helping at a food pantry. Since the program launched late 2021, associates worldwide have logged more than 300,000 hours of service.

Bringing awareness to an issue facing one in five teens

The goal Alexandra and Girls Inc. focused on was bringing awareness to period poverty — the unequal access to menstrual products, reproductive care and education facing low-income communities. A recent study found one in five teens in the U.S. have faced period poverty and have struggled to afford menstrual products or not been able to purchase them at all. 

Period poverty is affecting girls’ education, too. According to a UNESCO report, one in 10 girls skip school during their menstrual cycle due to the lack of access to products and resources. “You just think about the people who don't have access to feminine products and how it does affect other areas of their life,” says Alexandra. “There is kind of a stigma attached to that.” 

At the event in Westchester, associates packed 300 kits to benefit girls in the community. In total, the Westchester, Chicago and Los Angeles events, T-shirt sales and donations raised over $30,000 for Girls Inc. But filling a room with colleagues who were brought together through One Smile at a Time by PepsiCo offers another form of gratification, says Alexandra. “I’m able to show the world that there's good out there and that we can all help each other,” she says. “Community is home. It’s the people that you can lean on.”