Support the Girls SIUE joined area partners to help bring its services to people experiencing homelessness in an annual outreach event.
Project Homeless Connect is an annual, nationwide event that aims to bring service providers and people experiencing homelessness together to connect them to services and resources in their area. Madison County provides volunteers from different organizations to pick homeless individuals up from various shelters, organizations and churches and bring them to the event.
Alicia Alexander, director of Support the Girls Edwardsville and co-faculty sponsor of Support the Girls SIUE, said SIUE students are the main source of volunteer support within the organization. She also said the volunteers help sort and organize the donations, as well as measure the women for bra sizing.
“This really is a need in our community because people have a tendency to donate clothes and coats which is wonderful, but it’s hard to get these items that are very personal, and people don’t think about it as a need, but there is a great need for it,” Alexander said. “It’s about dignity.”
Alexander said the event was an all-service day, where those in need were pampered as well as provided basic services.
“Food is provided, tips on housing, recovery counseling, and sometimes there will be a stylist that will cut their hair, sometimes there are dental people here that will clean their teeth, the Lions Club has been here to help them get glasses if they need them, flu shots. We get to do the Bra Room,” Alexander said.
Alannah Nelson, a sophomore from Collinsville, said Support the Girls SIUE donated new and gently used bras, brand-new underwear and menstrual hygiene products.
“I think this is a really cool volunteer experience because there aren’t a lot of opportunities to get new bras, new underwear and especially feminine hygiene products,” Nelson said.
LaRae Bigard, a junior from Newton, said she saw many mothers picking up bras for their daughters.
“It’s an underserved need,” Bigard said. “I think it’s a really personable thing that we can help people with.”
Stephanie Batson, co-faculty advisor of Support the Girls SIUE, said that the group initially began with the donation of bras, but has since branched out into the donation of feminine hygiene products as well. She said they began to make “Period Packs” using donated Ipsy makeup subscription bags.
“Inside a Period Pack is enough, hopefully, for one month… it’s kind of like a nice thing to keep in a backpack or purse,” Batson said. “There are pads, tampons, liners and then we do little encouraging notes or stickers so they know it came from Support the Girls.”
Support the Girls held a “Period Packing Party” in the fall, where student volunteers came together to pack menstrual hygiene facts and learn more about Support the Girls’ initiative. Alexander said she got involved herself after her friend started Support the Girls in Washington D.C.
“I really thought her initiative was really neat and I decided to do it too, so I collected bras from neighbors and friends. I had a ‘Bra-beque’ and I cooked barbeque food for people and said to bring bras,” Alexander said.
Support the Girls goes beyond Project Homeless Connect, donating and volunteering all across the metro-east.
“We donate to anyone that needs [bras, underwear and menstrual hygiene products]… We donate them to nurses, foster care programs, anti-sex trafficking organizations, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, pantries, anybody who needs them,” Alexander said.
For more ways to volunteer, visit Support the Girls’ Facebook page.
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