Sometimes we receive bra donations that are not, necessarily, re-salable.
Some are more than gently used. Over time, we have discovered that some colors and sizes don’t sell well in the secondhand clothing markets of Africa and Central America.
Free The Girls’ business model is built on utilizing bras that otherwise might end up in landfills. We do not want to waste any of the bras donated to us, even if they don’t warrant being sent overseas to resell. We also want to be good stewards of the money entrusted to us by supporters since the cost of shipping is, by far, our biggest cost. Shipping bras that won’t sell well doesn’t make sense. Over the past 5 years our inventory team has found ways to “share” our resources to avoid wasting even one bra.
Our motto? “No bra left behind!”
So what happens to those less-than perfect bras? In the beginning our team just started sorting out these bras so they wouldn’t get shipped to locations where they would not sell. But you can only “stash” bras for so long, even in a warehouse!
One of our first solutions was with a partner in Denver called SOL Lingerie. Not only are they a terrific bra drop-off for us, they also work with The Gathering Place. This is a charity organization in Denver that helps women experiencing homelessness and poverty. Now we had a local place that needed donated bras in larger sizes and any color.
Since then, we have branched out. Our inventory operation is now based in Chesterton, Indiana. Our inventory manager was introduced to the chaplain for the Illinois Department of Corrections and asked if they might be able to use some of the bras. Logan Correctional Center and Decatur Correctional Center were both very happy to receive bra inventory for the women they serve. One little known fact is that in some correctional institutions, women are not issued bras and some inmates do not have friends or family who can send them a bra. Donated bras help women be more comfortable and modest.
Another organization in the area is the Sojourner Truth House, a not for profit organization located in Gary, Indiana, sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Sojourner Truth House serves homeless and at-risk women and their children. Many of these women leave their homes with only the clothing on their back, or do not have clean and wearable clothing because they have been homeless. Clothing donations of all kinds are more than welcome and put to good use.
Likewise, Stepping Stone Women’s Shelter, in Michigan City, Indiana, is an emergency shelter for women and their underage children who are victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Services are confidential and include both short term and emergency help as well as long term and survivorship help. Again, as you can imagine, donations of all kinds are extremely welcome.
Another great partner is The Bra Recyclers in Arizona. This program began as a commitment to reducing textile waste that is simply thrown in landfills. The Bra Recyclers partners with other charitable organizations to distribute reusable bras to victims of domestic violence, and it recycles bras that aren’t reusable.
One of our newest partners is the Chicago Dream Center’s “New Life for Women” ministry. This is a residential program that provides housing and wrap around services for trafficking victims who are 18 years and older. New Life for Women allows for up to a year and a half and support for a lifetime of freedom. Donated bras are used by the residents.
Finally, we have the non-bras. Once in a while we have “extras” thrown into packages with bra donations, such as pajamas, socks, lingerie, teddy bears, picture frames, school supplies, clothing, and assorted other accessories. and we don’t want to waste them either. We send non-bra donations to Duneland Resale in Chesterton, Indiana. This organization sells donated items and uses the proceeds for charity.
All of these organizations are terrific partners in our goal to use resources to the best of our ability. We thank them for their ongoing support.