A little over two years ago we had an influx of customers coming to us saying they had all these almost brand new bras that they didn’t wear; either because they bought new ones that season or because of the ever changing female form (need I say more, we’ve all experienced that!). What could they or should they do with them?
Not being entirely sure, I did some research – you could donate them to a charity thrift store, you could send them to some bra collection organizations in the US, or you could send them to an organization that sends them to Africa or Asia. All very worthy and important causes, but there was nothing local in our backyard. And there is so much need here. We all know how expensive good quality bras can be – and for someone deciding whether to buy food, pay rent or buy a bra, the choice is a pretty obvious one.
We started thinking, “what if we did something here?” But what? Then I saw a video about a men’s store that collected suits, then fitted and altered them for newly released convicts to wear to job interviews. Could we do something like that? Did we want to add that to our plate? Would it work? Yes, yes and yes. And just like that Supportive Start was born!
I had been looking for a volunteer opportunity that would service our community and then this idea fell in our laps. What better way than to serve other than with what we know best…bras!
We wanted to do something more than just collect bras and drop them off to a shelter or transition house. We wanted to give women who were in a difficult spot in their life an experience as close to what they would have in the store: one on one service, kind words and a fun, memorable experience that would take them out of their situation if only for an hour or two.
So with all that in mind, we were off! We launched a bra drive to collect gently used bras from our customers to build our stock. That was our first surprise…the generosity of people wanting to contribute was amazing! We had bras pouring in from all over, people even sending packages of bras from out of town. We organized staff who were willing to volunteer their time to go to fit clinics and create an amazing experience for women and girls who might not otherwise ever experience a bra fitting or have a properly fitting bra.
But surprisingly, our biggest initial roadblock was getting organizations to invite us in to do free fit clinics for their clients. The fact that we are a private business wanting to do a bra fit clinic and give away free bras and panties was a challenge for some people to understand. What was our ‘angle’ and what we wanted out of it? We just wanted to give back to our community! After the first few fit clinics, organizations from homeless shelters to transition houses started talking to each other and we were being sought out from Abbotsford to the Downtown East Side.
When we first started doing the fit clinics my biggest eye opener was… how amazingly generous and loving so many of the women at the fit clinics were. They were willing to share their spots with each other, helping each other pick out panties and sharing a fun shopping experience with each other – just like customers in a store might! We had created what we had originally dreamed of! They were genuinely thankful and appreciative that other women cared enough about them to come and share such an intimate and personal experience with them.
We are so grateful that we are able to share our skills and talents as bra fitters with women and girls who really need life to be a little more comfortable. The other night we did a fit clinic at a youth drop in center and I overheard one of the teenage girls saying to the facilitator as she left her fitting, with her new bras and panties, that she had never felt so special before. That brought tears to my eyes and solidified why we want to continue Supportive Start.
I am also so humbled that so many of our suppliers have totally gotten on board with donating brand new panties and bras so that we always have the sizes that we need in stock for our fit clinics. We even have sales reps that come out an volunteer to be fitters at our clinics!
Our future goal for Supportive start is to partner with other companies who can supply the necessities that a lot of these women need but don’t have access to, such as feminine hygiene products, personal care products, oral hygiene and so on, so that we can provide care packages full of these items along with the bras and panties.
From a light bulb moment idea to a tangible way to help women in our community, Support Start has become something greater than we ever could have hoped. With the continued generosity of you – our beloved customers – we are so fortunate to be able to make a difference in the lives of women who need it most. So for that we thank you and we cannot wait to see where Supportive Start will take us in the years to come.