Below are programs I Support The Girls operates for many different populations across the U.S. and globally.
The Affiliate Network
In July 2015, the concept behind I Support the Girls (ISTG) was born out of a conversation between the Founder & Executive Director, Dana Marlowe, and a salesclerk at a SOMA boutique. With the words, “Homeless women need bras,” the first drive for donations began. Marlowe spoke with a homeless shelter in her area that confirmed that bras are infrequently donated, in high demand, and expensive to purchase. It was the same story with menstrual hygiene products. Women on the street regularly choose between food and these items, meaning often they end up using creative means to address their needs: belts around their chest to replace bras; wadded up toilet paper, paper towels, or newspaper instead of hygiene products.
In April 2016, ISTG was officially incorporated as a nonprofit and its grassroots efforts continued to spread throughout the country and the world. Affiliate Directors started programs in their local communities. Each affiliate utilizes individual regional knowledge to determine the best donation points and collection methods to serve their unique community.
In order to become an affiliate, the volunteer must undergo a vetting process to ensure that the position is a good fit. Due to the local nature of the work, each affiliate works uniquely. ‘Collect locally, donate locally’ is the driving methodology behind The Affiliate Network. Since people approach ISTG and not the other way around, the result is a strong, dedicated legion of people working independently towards a common goal. ISTG donates nationally and internationally to organizations that serve women in hard situations.
In the last four years, ISTG has received donations from all 50 states and more than 25 countries. In addition to the more than 8 million bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products donated, ISTG has donated over 425,000 toiletries including soaps, shampoos, etc. around the country.
In March 2020, as the United States and the world shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISTG noticed an uptick in requests from survivors of domestic violence/intimate partner violence (DV/IPV), and organizations who serve them. While ISTG has a long history of working with DV/IPV focused organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increased number of folx calling helplines, filing police reports, and leaving abusive situations and staying with friends and family.
Safety plans are essential in the context of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. The abuser typically controls many aspects of the survivor’s life, and being able to walk away safely is not an option. The plan involves where one will go, who will be involved, when one will leave, and what one will take with them. Often, survivors leave with what they are wearing, and maybe what they could fit in a small bag. It can’t look like they are planning to run.
While researching this program, ISTG looked at the recommended packing and preparation lists on hundreds of organizations serving survivors of domestic violence. While most offer a list of essential items, including legal documents, identification documents, sentimental items, and a change of clothing, not ONE time did we see menstrual products listed. Menstrual products, extra undergarments, and toiletries are essential items. Although they are sometimes left behind in the interest of safety, they are expensive to replace and necessary.
D.A.S.H. (Dignity, Aid, Security, and Hygiene) Kits are meant to help alleviate a tiny part of the financial and emotional strain of fleeing an abusive situation. D.A.S.H. Kits can be requested here by anyone who needs a lift while they get resettled. Included in the kits are:
- 3 month’s supply of the menstrual products of your choice (pads, tampons, or a cup available)
- A mask
- At least one toiletry item
- A reusable bag to carry these items, and others as needed
ISTG hopes to expand the D.A.S.H. kits to include other essentials as we grow this program.
Disaster Relief Program
Individuals, organizations, and even the federal government have requested that ISTG send aid to areas affected by flooding, fires, and other disasters that require sudden evacuation. Flooding in Baton Rouge, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and Matthew, the Gatlinburg wildfires in Tennessee, and the devastating 2018 wildfires in California have all necessitated immediate response with large quantities of product. Menstrual hygiene products and bras are rarely on the mind when one is racing to collect treasured items on the way out the door, but are still just as necessary in the aftermath. ISTG’s unique structure allows for a rapid response, which many disaster relief organizations are unable to do. Over 600,000 products have been distributed.
ISTG has expanded its Disaster Response Program to make it more nimble and ensure a constant stock of supplies. With a warehouse storing ample supplies, we can provide higher levels of instant support in the case of a disaster and sudden homelessness.
🔥 Flash Kit Program
There is a prevalence of ‘first period’ kits and information available to those going through puberty and beginning their menstrual journey. For those approaching the end of this journey, however, there is less information available. Menopause is especially distinctive in that each body experiences it so uniquely. The symptoms may last for anywhere from several years to decades, which means 1.3 million folks experience menopause each year, 6,000 each day. While going through this can be difficult for anyone, it is especially hard when you are without resources, unhomed or living in poverty.
Our 🔥Flash Kits will provide a care package full of products to women and folks experiencing homelessness and poverty to address the most common symptoms of menopause.
Although we recognize that many find medicine, supplements, and vitamins to be extremely useful in addressing symptoms, ISTG asks that you consult your healthcare provider about what is best for your specific situation, and will not be providing them these kits. For now, the kits are only available in the U.S. All items are pending availability.
🔥Flash Kits are meant to provide some relief from symptoms, some special treats to celebrate this time of life, and some resources around what the body is experiencing.
The kit will offer (pending availability):
- Underwear – depending on availability ISTG may be able to offer a variety of sizes and styles, including potentially incontinence/period underwear.
- Bras of choice, including soft bralettes, or underwire
- Pantiliers, incontinence pads, maxipads, and/or period underwear
- Lubricant to address vaginal dryness and discomfort
- Cooling towels
- Skin care specific to older skin
- Essential oil products, aromatherapy
- Body wipes and/or deodorant wipes
- Self-care toiletry items
- Pens and notepads
- Masks, as requested
- Information and resource card
Force for Change Programs
The Force for Change programs encompass advocacy, unique populations, special requests from partners, and creates long term change in the lives of those they serve. ISTG has utilized corporate partnerships and private donations to meet these needs. The unique groups served include:
- Breast cancer survivors
- School districts: The financial choice between hygiene products and food is somewhat obvious. But equally important are the times when girls are forced to choose petty theft or missing school. ISTG partnered with Chicago Public Schools and the CDC to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products so that students could still come to school during their period. Over 210,000 products have been distributed so far.
- Native Americans
- Federal, state, and local correctional facilities, programs serving released or bonded women and girls: Inmates at correctional facilities are offered yoga or exercise classes to help them get to a healthier place. However, they have only one or two old bras that do not provide adequate support. A partnership with correctional facilities to provide sports bras for the women who are interested in bettering themselves while incarcerated gives dignity to those who have very little. Additionally, ISTG has partnered with the Indiana Department of Corrections to provide 10,000 bras for women who are released from correctional facilities and need a new bra, considering they may be leaving prison with the same bra they entered with.
- Immigrants and refugees
- International programs
- Transgender teens and adults: Many transgender youth are rejected by their families and communities, end up in shelters or on the street. They don’t have the resources for a healthy transition process. Through our Force for Change Program, these youth know that they are supported and safe.
- Migrant farm workers
- Youth programs
Please contact us to receive more information.