Last year, we published the story of Dana Marlowe, a Maryland woman who had at the time collected more than 20,000 bras and feminine hygiene products for homeless and low income women in need around the world. It all began with a trip to Soma.
One year later, we’re extremely excited to make our relationship official. We are going public with our partnership with Dana’s organization, I Support the Girls. Since Dana’s initial collection, she’s made I Support the Girls a global nonprofit with 50 affiliates. Each of these entities has collected and distributed more than 135,000 new/gently used bras as well as 850,000 newly sealed packages of personal hygiene products to homeless women and girls in need across the world. To put it bluntly: a lot can happen in a year.
Recently, we caught up again with Dana as she tells us about her inspiring work.
Q: How did your visit to Soma inspire you?
A: About two years ago, I visited my local Soma for some new bras. I’d lost weight, and asked your associate Deneen what to do with my bras that no longer fit. As she sized me, she told me about your Soma Bra Donation and the women in shelters who so often have to go without. It was a light bulb moment in the fitting room I had always put out bags of clothes to donate, but I’d never thrown in my bras. Too personal, right? Deneen offered to take my bras and hold them until the next donation period, but I was too excited to wait. Something big was about to happen.
Q: What did you do?
A: The next day, I reached out to Thrive D.C., a homeless shelter, with bras to donate. They were enthusiastic and confirmed everything Deneen had said. I asked what else I could bring. They told me they desperately needed feminine hygiene products, so I donated those, too. Just a few boxes from the drugstore nearby. Then, I went home and posted on Facebook about what I was doing. I had to share the enthusiasm, but what I hadn’t expected was that it would be contagious, like lightening in a bottle.. From that initial post,, my friends started sharing my post and commenting, saying they didn’t realize they could donate bras or hygiene products. That initial lightbulb was glowing and now sparking across my newsfeed. Needless to say, the Donations started pouring in.
Q: What a great response! How did you handle all the donations?
A: I started doing porch pick-ups from women in my neighborhood on my lunch breaks. Small to start, no more than a few miles from my house. Then, word really got out. People wanted to act as collection sites and to hold events: churches, synagogues, yoga studios, corporations. At this point, my kids’ backpacks were coming home every day with bags of bras and maxi pads. A side story: my kids are now totally blasé about the whole aspect of menstruation, and I welcome the opportunity to smash some menstrual stigma with my sons.They also totally understand how bras can equate to dignity for some.
My basement was flooded with hundreds of bras. Then, the Washington Post heard about me and did a story around Halloween 2015. That Sunday, my inbox was filled with emails from all over the world. I knew I needed a new strategy, as we had outgrown a neighborhood listserv and Facebook post shares. I went online and bought the website iSupportTheGirls.org, and my husband helped me put the site up immediately. Now, 135,000 bras later, this grassroots movement has gone global.
Q: What does it mean to now have the support of Soma as a partner of I Support the Girls?
Partnering with a company like Soma as an explosive start-up provides a bigger outreach to spread the message about dignity for hundreds of thousands of women without. Soma is a partner that values the local contributions to help women experiencing homelessness by empowering women to donate in their communities. It’s a perfect match.
Q: What’s your ultimate dream for I Support the Girls?
A: I want to encourage others to do what the Soma Bra Donation does—collect locally and distribute locally. That is what has made I Support the Girls spread like wildfire. We are surrounded by positivity, sure, but a blazing attitude to change the status quo. We’ve received donations from 48 states, Canada and most recently, Australia, Thailand, Pakistan, Taiwan, Philippines, and beyond Next up, Mexico and New Zealand. The global component has been remarkable. It’s organically happening on its own as we shift perceptions about bras, menstruation, health, self-esteem, and homelessness.
Q: Other than I Support the Girls, what keeps you going?
A: I love what I do for my day job—making technology accessible for people with disabilities at Accessibility Partners. I’m a human rights advocate at my core. I also love my never-enough time with my family. Truly, I like to see women succeed in business, and believe that everyone can have a passion project. Aside from that: early morning dance parties, Indie music festivals, and traveling to countries where I don’t speak the language keep me going.
This July, Soma is thrilled to partner with I Support the Girls to donate bras to women in need in our local communities.
See how more than one million donated bras have made a difference.