A shelter that helps more than 900 women a year, N Street Village has made a goal of making sure
each resident feels her best as she rebuilds her life. The nonprofit goes so far as to offer a unique cushion of support not found in most other shelters in the Washington area.
“It’s a necessity for a woman to be treated to nice undergarments,” Anne Steeves, in kind gift coordinator at N Street Village, said. “It’s part of being a woman, and we need to meet the needs of women, especially if they are homeless.”
She is particularly concerned about bras. The comfort of having a well-fitted bra enables residents to adjust to a new life within the shelter and beyond. Yet these literal boosters of confidence, particularly those in large sizes are not often donated. And they can be costly, sometimes as expensive as $150 for sizes up to 54H.
Fortunately, N Street Village has a special source for them.
It is Support1000, perhaps the only service of its kind in the nation specifically focused upon getting donated bras to women in need.
The brainchild of Executive DirectorOz du Soleil, Chicago-based Support1000 got started in 2008 and since then has garnered more than 15,000 bras through donations from the public and department stores. Some of the bras have been donated to women in other countries. But 88 percent of the undergarments remain here in America, going to organizations that support women in a variety of ways; from nonprofits dedicated to helping women leaving prison, to a reservation high school for Sioux students to institutions for the blind and visually impaired.
As women can attest, a quality bra is more than just comfortable: It’s a physical support that grants confidence to the wearer. Yet these basic items can be costly, and out-of-reach for women struggling to get by.
“To put it in perspective,” said de Soleil, “it costs $20 to $50 for a decent bra. When you’re a low-income woman, you could buy a tank of gas for that. Who was meeting this need?”
Initially, he planned to simply collect 1,000 bras to distribute, but once he hit his goal, he knew he could not stop. Shelters and other programs begged him to keep collecting and donating to their organizations.
But du Soleil hesitates to categorize the women whom he helps. The women are not necessarily low-income, he said. But each of them is struggling to overcome major challenges.
“These are women who’ve had a hard life. They don’t have to be low- income. They could be well-off and coming from an abusive situation. They are just trying to put their lives back together,” he said.
Steeves reached out to Support1000 in October 2010, and the shelter received its first donation later that fall. The latest quarterly shipment surpassed all expectations, lending 135 women the support they needed.
“When we give out bras, we’re giving dignity,” Steeves said. “Donors tend to give what they already have and are looking to get rid of. All women have a favorite bra, but what about those who don’t have a favorite bra?”
Du Soleil agrees. He said that every woman has that one bra that doesn’t fit quite right. She may not wear it but she hesitates to throw it away. With a donation to Support1000, a woman can give her bra — along with some precious dignity and confidence — to another woman in need.
“It’s great,” Ann McCreedy, the director of programs at N Street Village, said. “I love that organizations like Support1000 have become a middleman to this niche and fill a need.”
- It is the only organization in the U.S. to collect and donate only bras.
- It began in November 2008.
- It ships to countries all across the world including: Mali, Ke- nya, Guatamala, the Pilippines and Zimbabwe.
- It keeps 88 percent of the donations domestic to organi- zations. In D.C., donations are shipped to N Street Village and Martha’s Table.
- It can ship 100 bras for $25.
How to donate
Bras: Mail new or gently used bras with the bra donation form available at support1000.org
Money: PayPal accounts accepted online. Any checks may be sent to Support1000
P.O. Box 412406
Chicago, IL 60641