By: Stephanie Alvarez, Guest BloggerSeptember 25, 2016
Let's learn about Support The Girls:
When people think about the needs of a homeless woman, they often think about food, water, blankets, and clothes, but hardly anyone takes bras and feminine hygiene products into consideration; products that are essential to a woman’s life. The tremendous need for bras and feminine hygiene products amongst people living transient lives is an issue that has not received enough exposure, making the experience of a homeless women and girls even more difficult.
That is where people like Dana Marlowe come into play. Marlowe is a woman who considers herself to be part of the “donation culture,” donating everything from clothing, to shoes, books, and furniture. When she went through a transformation in her life and lost a significant amount of weight, she, of course, picked up some new bras. But she wondered if she could also donate her old bras. After learning that homeless shelters were in desperate need of bras and feminine hygiene products, Marlowe decided to post about her discovery on her Facebook page while asking if any of her family and friends were willing to donate these products as well.
The response was astounding.
The post was shared dozens of times and people everywhere were eager to donate their old bras along with boxes of maxi pads and tampons. After realizing that this had become something much bigger than herself, Marlowe started a Facebook page called “Support the Girls” as a way to keep track of all the people who wanted to donate items. This Facebook page soon led to the creation of a website, allowing Support the Girls to become a full-blown non-profit organization. To this day, in the span of a year, Marlowe has collected and donated over 53,000 menstrual products and over 20,000 bras.
The expansion of Marlowe’s organization has helped shed some much needed light on an issue that most people aren’t even aware of. In fact, access to bras and menstrual products is something most people take for granted; it’s simply not something that most women think about on a daily basis. As Marlowe mentioned, when a girl’s body matures and she begins to create a sense of identity and a sense of self, “being a person who is without a home must be significantly harder than for a population that does have that security.” Which is why making these products available for homeless women and girls is so important. Not only do they provide a better sense of security in their unstable world, but it also gives a person some of the dignity that they deserve.
Although we may not realize it, for the homeless women and girls who lack bras and menstrual products, these items can actually serve as a form of empowerment. According to Marlowe, “A bra is dignity. A bra is respect for oneself.” Not only do they provide a “physical boost to one’s body, but it also provides a boost to one’s self-esteem.”
Even though Marlowe is undoubtedly making a difference in the homeless community, expanding this organization has taken its toll on her. As someone who already worked a full-time job running her own company and taking on a 50-60 hour work week while also tending to the needs of her family, Marlowe never expected to be running her own non-profit organization as well. But as fate would have it, the organization happened to create itself very organically, and Marlowe felt as if she had no choice but to run with it. So what motivated her to take on another responsibility despite balancing a busy schedule to begin with?
In the words of Marlowe,
When you see injustice in the world and you find a solution to help make some people’s lives easier, it isn’t something you can easily give up.
With that mindset, Marlowe set out to expand the organization beyond local boundaries by encouraging and empowering others to start their own local chapters where they can collect and distribute feminine items accordingly.
So if someone like Marlowe can set out and start a whole organization to help gather the surplus of supplies and match it with the extreme demand on top of everything going on in her life already, then there are certainly many things we as individuals can do to contribute to the cause. “Individuals and women can look inside their drawers and see if they have bras that they no longer wear, they can mail bras, and anyone can also purchase menstrual hygiene products.” These items can be donated or mailed to the P.O. box address listed on the Support the Girls Website. In addition, people can also engage locally with any of the 46 Support the Girls affiliates, or host collections among their friends, their communities, schools, camps, religious institutions, and more.
Support the Girls has helped raise awareness about an issue that is often overlooked in the homeless community while simultaneously empowering the women who receive these products, and encouraging those who have easy access to these items to donate them to women in need.
By spreading the word, and creating an infrastructure that makes it easy to give, Marlowe has helped make the world a better place….
One bra at a time.
Sometimes you can make a big difference with a simple idea - like donating your bras! What are some other ways you can help your community?
Stephanie is a 21 year old college student finishing up her last couple semesters at the University of Southern California. After graduating from college, she hopes to work in the field of television and eventually become the producer of her own TV show. Stephanie is a lover of all things Disney, costume parties, mermaids, bean and cheese burritos, her big dysfunctional family, and is a certified crazy cat lady as well.