Dana Marlowe’s I Support the Girls
“Homeless women need bras.”
Those are the four words that reached past all the pressing issues in Dana Marlowe’s mind and wrapped themselves tightly around her heart.
Those four words were the proverbial lightning bolt of clarity some people live their entire lives seeking, but never experience.
Dana Marlowe hadn’t been looking for any lightning bolts that day. She was just bra shopping.
It had been years since the wife, mother, entrepreneur, and self-proclaimed “fashion train wreck” had bought herself any new clothes. She had too many other things on her mind to worry about fashion, so her friends had resorted to desperate measures, and reached out to professionals.
Dana was ambushed by the reality show, ”What Not to Wear” and given an entire fashion overhaul. She laughs about it now.
She laughs a lot, actually, which is a large part of her charm.
The makeover effect had been fun but temporary. The day Dana walked into the boutique, she was back to her comfortable self. She’d lost weight, though, and her bras no longer fit. Her husband had finally pleaded with her to buy some new bras.
So, that day, Dana was on an errand more for the man she loves than anything else.
The Marlowe family habitually donates gently used clothing, toys, books, and sometimes furniture. It seemed a shame to throw away perfectly good bras, but Dana had no idea where to donate them.
Dana Marlowe was like most people – compassionate and caring, yet unaware of real-life struggles faced by hundreds of thousands of people in this country.
Good people mired in difficult times. Homeless as a result of any number of things. Women fleeing abusive relationships, seeking temporary safe shelter. Women who survive catastrophic natural disasters, sometimes thousands at a time, who have lost their homes, their towns, maybe even someone they love in a sudden tragic event. Veterans who have gone to combat on behalf of this country only to fall into that dangerous transitional gap when they return home, and on and on.
Dana was overcome with empathy for these women when she spoke with someone at a homeless shelter near her home in the Washington DC area.
“If you’re willing to bringing us bras,” the man said, “would you consider bringing maxi pads and tampons?”
Those items were desperately needed, he explained.
“I thought for the first time what it must be like to be a woman experiencing homelessness and have her period,” says Dana.
How atrocious it must be, she thought, to be on the streets and have to use what little money you can gather, on expensive maxi pads instead of food. Those menstrual hygiene products are slapped with a luxury item tax makes it that much worse.
Galvanized into action, Dana shared her discovery and her plans to donate on her Facebook page and invited anyone in her area to do the same.
That post exploded. Responses poured in. People wanted to donate. Before she could even process what was happening, Dana found herself regularly making rounds to people’s homes, to pick up bras and menstrual hygiene products. The need, she discovered, was not just in her big city. It was national. It was even international.
The Washington Post sniffed out her story in 2015. By then, Dana Marlowe had organized a team of volunteers and collectively, they’d donated over a thousand bras and 7100 menstrual products to local women. She can rattle off those numbers because of her meticulous record-keeping. She and her team inventory every single item that passes through their hands, from truckloads of donations to plastic bags picked up from porches.
She’d even named her organization: I Support the Girls (Pun intended) .
The Washington Post article immediately launched Dana into a whole new level of beautiful insanity.
Her phone buzzed non-stop. Literally. She could not even use it because of the incessant influx of emails and messages. It was wonderful to see the outpouring of support for this cause. Hundreds of people around the country messaged her: “I want to do this in my community. Tell me what I need to do.” She was also getting requests for donations.
It was also a lot to manage.
Dana Marlowe is a mother of two. She is also the founder of two other companies in addition to I Support the Girls. One company centers on the field of accessibility technology and disability – adapting technology to people with disabilities. The majority of her workforce is comprised of those very people; people with disabilities and firsthand knowledge of the needs.
That company is ten years old, and Dana beams when she talks about it. The other company is smaller, and she’s been running that for 14 years. It’s a hefty workload few people can maintain. “It takes a willingness to kind of just step off the edge and fall,” is how she describes it.
I Support the Girls is no longer a local organization.
There are fifty affiliates, including internationally. To date, I Support the Girls has donated over 500,000 bras and 2.5 million menstrual hygiene products. The work has become so large it has overtaken Dana’s home. Boxes of products and piles and bags of bras arrive every day. They are stored throughout her home, and the entire family takes part in sorting and organizing them.
That’s right, her husband and two sons are on the frontlines with Dana.
The enormity of it all is staggering but, says Dana, the need is so real, she cannot give up.
She quotes a biblical phrase to explain her commitment to this cause, “I’m not obligated to complete the work, but neither can I desist from it.”
This means that she does not place it upon herself to end homelessness and poverty. She is simply doing her part to meet a need she sees.
“I just don’t think it was something I could walk away from,” she says.
It’s part of the American spirit she embraces and works hard to live up to. It’s about putting yourself out there to help another person. Whether that person is on your street, in your community, in your country or in another country, Dana believes in the principle of people helping people.
I Support the Girls is a testament to the power of one person turning inspiration into action, and inspiring others to do the same. The accidental movement has become a mission, and that mission is growing.
Dana remains committed to the cause. She also recognizes the reality that she needs more resources. Currently, in addition to her own home, Bras and menstrual hygiene products are stored in small storage units around the country. She desperately wants to have a warehouse of any size to serve as a central supply area, and the ability to process intakes and mail shipments from that warehouse. While she’s wishing, why not make that in the Baltimore/Maryland DC area?
If you want to be a part of supporting the girls – and Dana – this link allows you to donate any amount.
Or, if you prefer the old-school, mail a check or gift card way, mail to:
I Support the Girls – Attn: Dana Marlowe – P.O. Box 2736
Wheaton, Maryland 20915
If Dana Marlowe’s story inspires you, we invite you to make today the day you turn inspiration into action and help by donating and sharing this story.
Together, we can help restore dignity and basic human comfort to women who are in troubled times.