Group photo of the SPARC Women Staff

Partner Organization Spotlight: SPARC Women’s Health Center

By: Rachel Hyman 

You know the bra. It’s pink and lacy, and you bought it for that dress you only wore once. Now it’s shoved in the back of your underwear drawer, never to see the light of day again. But you know just what to do with it. You box this bra up with some extra pads and tampons, and mail it off to I Support the Girls. You’re relieved to know that your bra will find its way to a person in need, and it will make them feel beautiful and confident in a way that no other bra does. Yet, you wonder…how exactly do your bras get to the women and folks who need them? Here’s how: I Support the Girls partners with a number of amazing organizations uplifting women and folks throughout the world. One of these inspiring organizations is the SPARC Women’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

Road to Dignity Map shows how donations get from I Support the Girls to our partner organizations in need.

Founded in 2017, SPARC Women’s Center enhances access to harm reduction services and offers ongoing care for sex workers and those who use drugs. SPARC provides wrap-around services from showers and food bags to mental health services and STI screenings, all available at no cost.

Group photo of the SPARC Women Staff
The SPARC Women staff members.

A partnership made in nonprofit heaven

SPARC and ISTG’s partnership began with the Clinical Director at SPARC, Katelyn Riegger. After reading an article about the hospital care of women who experience sexual assault, Katelyn became interested in programs that donated undergarments. The article discussed that often times, for individuals who experience sexual violence and seek medical care, undergarments are taken as evidence, and individuals are sent home in whatever is available, including scrubs or ill-fitted bras and underwear.

“I had a similar experience when I went to the hospital with a client,” Katelyn reflected. “The hospital staff wanted her to take off her clothes for evidence, but those clothes were all she had with her. I remember looking back and thinking how humiliating that was. She had already been through one trauma to then put her through another trauma as well.”

Soon after opening, the SPARC Center began giving out emergency clothing to combat the larger issue of resource scarcity; but, they often lacked a sufficient stock of bras and underwear.

“We didn’t have many sizes, and women would put on these tiny bras just so they would have something,” Katelyn said. “It was challenging to see these people who were already vulnerable and marginalized be torn down even more by bras that didn’t fit or they didn’t like.”

SPARC women van.

Two nonprofits, one shared goal

With the help of I Support the Girls, Katelyn and the SPARC Women’s Center are now able to provide their guests with bras that fit and make them feel beautiful and dignified.

“The quality of the bras that ISTG provides is incredible,” said Katelyn, “I was blown away and so excited to take them back to SPARC. These were bras that people were going to be really happy receiving. And, getting menstrual supplies on top of that was amazing.”

SPARC Woman staff member.

In addition to bras, SPARC Women’s Center distributes countless pads and tampons to their clients every year.

“Those supplies are expensive and not always readily available. We’ve tried our best to get donations, but even then, we are only able to hand people a bag of three or four tampons, which anyone who menstruates knows – may not even be enough for a day,” Katelyn said. “You need much larger quantities of menstrual products to be able to give them out in a realistic and equitable way. We hear all the time that people don’t have these supplies.”

I Support the Girls was created to help fill this exact need, so we are thrilled to help provide SPARC’s clients with enough menstrual products to cover their entire cycle. It’s just the right thing to do. A person should never have to choose between a hot meal or a pad for their period.

SPARC women.

Going Forward

ISTG is proud to directly help advance SPARC’s mission, and so can you! In addition to donating bras, pads, and tampons to ISTG, you can support the SPARC Women’s Center in a variety of different ways. If you would like to contribute time or resources to SPARC, send them a message on their Facebook or Instagram. Additionally, SPARC is always in need of additional supplies to provide their clients. Check out their Amazon wishlist to help fill these essential needs.

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