Kelsey Miller | Cleaning Out Your Closet | ELOQUII Blog
Blog, Kelsey Miller

Cleaning Out Your Closet? Read this First.

Kelsey Miller, Contributing Editor

We’ve all got them. There’s the bra that looks great, but digs into your sides. The one you ripped the tags off of before realizing it didn’t quite fit. The gorgeous, lacy one that cost more than your laptop, so you can’t just get rid of it — but you can’t clasp it shut either. They get shoved into the far reaches of your underwear drawer, never to be worn. Yet, these bras have the power to change millions of lives across the globe. So, with spring-cleaning season in full swing, here’s a wild idea: Donate them.

bras

Many of us assume that bras, like other underwear, cannot be donated, even if they’re new or barely worn. True, some of the larger donation organizations don’t accept them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t needed. In fact, bras are one of the most in-demand items amongst homeless women, refugees, and other populations in need.

Two years ago, Dana Marlowe, a technology consultant in Washington DC, called a local shelter to see if they’d accept the 16 bras she had, which no longer fit. “The man on the phone said yes before I could finish my sentence.” Marlowe put a post on Facebook, to see if any friends had bras to donate too. So many donations came in that soon she was regularly driving all over town to pick up and drop them at local shelters. In a matter of months, Marlowe founded her nonprofit organization, Support The Girls, which now collects and distributes both bras and menstrual products across the US and worldwide. New or used, it doesn’t matter, as long as they’re functional and clean. Bottom line, says Marlowe, “homeless women need bras.”

dana marlowe
Dana Marlowe, Support the Girls. Photo Credit: D. Lag Photography

Yes, some women choose not to wear bras, and some of us who do don’t recognize them as a true necessity. But for many women, life without a bra means both physical pain and a debilitating hit to their dignity. Imagine going into a job interview without one. “Many of the woman I’ve met have been wearing the same bra for 6, 7, 8 years,” says Marlowe. Others resort to wearing belts on their breasts. “They may get new shirts or pants from donation centers, but nobody is donating bras.”

Liz Long had the same realization when she began working with NuDay Syria, a humanitarian organization serving refugees. Each month, they send a shipping container of donated supplies to be distributed in camps, primarily in Syria and Turkey. Whenever bras come in, she says, “the people on the ground get really excited.” It’s a rare occurrence though, and often when people do donate bras, well, “they’ll be in really poor condition,” Long says. She quickly adds, “It’s not that we’re not grateful…but a lot of what the work is about is providing dignity, especially in situations of crisis.” 

Sports bras, nursing bras, bralettes — all are welcome. The key is that they be in good shape. Having decent underwear makes a real difference in quality of life, especially when you’ve lost as much as these women. “Having a nice bra to wear is so, so important,” Long adds. “And it makes them feel great.”

free the girls bra
Free The Girls

Free The Girls is another organization using donated bras to address a global crisis. Their bras go to women who are survivors of sex trafficking in Africa and Central America, who then sell them in the second-hand marketplace. “By receiving a starting inventory from Free The Girls, the women are able to begin their business and become an entrepreneur in their own communities,” reads their mission statement. “This income allows them a safe economic opportunity, and for many of the women, provides not only for themselves, but their children as well.” 

Your unwanted bras are one of the greatest untapped resources you’ve got (and one of the easiest to utilize). They may be useless to you, but to others, they’re a lifeline. They could provide necessary confidence to a woman trying to escape homelessness. They could ease the pain of a nursing mother in a refugee camp. They could offer financial freedom to a girl in dire need of self-sufficiency. They can serve these purposes and more — so don’t let them gather any more dust. 

Resource Guide

Bras they accept: All styles, new and used (but clean and intact — no broken clasps, etc.).

How to donate: First, check the website or email info@iSupportTheGirls.org to see if there’s a drop-off center in your area. If not, you can ship the directly to the organization:
Support the Girls
Attn: Dana Marlowe
P.O. Box 2736
Wheaton, Maryland 20915

Where will they go? Domestic and international homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, refugee resettlement homes, foster care agencies, LGBTQ agencies, and homes for pregnant teens.

Are donations tax deductible? Yes.

Do they take anything else? Yes, they collect menstrual hygiene products. More info on that here.

Bras they accept: All styles, new or like-new.

How to donate: If you’re in MA, NH, or RI, drop off at any of these locations. If not, simply pack and ship them here:
NuDay Syria, c/c Alternative Logistics,
1 Chestnut St,
Nashua, NH 03060

Where will they go? In the next monthly shipping container going to refugee camps in Syria and Turkey. Once received, the bras will be distributed directly to women in the camps.

Are donations tax deductible? Yes.

Do they take anything else? Yes, needs in the camps are constant, growing, and varied. They accept everything from medical supplies to shelf-stable food. Liz Long says, in addition to bras, baby supplies (diapers, formula) are also rarely donated and in high demand.

Bras they accept: All styles in good condition.

Drop off at any of their numerous locations in the US or abroad, or mail to this address:
Free The Girls
1552 Pioneer Trail
Chesterton, IN 46304

Where will they go? Free The Girls partners with local aid organizations in countries where there is a market for second-hand bras. They connect with women who are survivors of sex trafficking and interested in using this inventory. (Note that these women are self-employed, not employees of FTG.) Read more on how it works here.

Are donations tax deductible? Yes.

Do they take anything else? No other material goods, but if you’d like to donate funds or become a volunteer, check out their website.

Bras they accept: All styles in any condition. Bras that cannot be worn will be recycled and used for other textiles. Even the metal from underwire will be reused. How cool is that?

How to donate: Use one of their collection sites or ship to:
The Bra Recyclers
3317 S. HIgley Rd, Ste 114-441
Gilbert, AZ 85297

Are donations tax deductible? Yes.

Do they take anything else? Breast forms and prostheses, camisoles, and new underwear.