A few years ago, I saw a Facebook post by a former camp counselor of mine who now lives in Cleveland. She’d held a drive for pads, tampons, and bras, and was donating the spoils to a local homeless shelter. I was inspired and humbled by her initiative, and stunned by how obviously needed and impactful the drive was. I thought, if women need that stuff in Cleveland, they definitely need it here in Detroit. And if Joanna’s doing this work there, why shouldn’t I be the one to do it here?
I also thought about my then three-year-old son, and how we’d recently been talking about the Tzedakah Box on our front table. (Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for acts we do to help those in need. Mostly our Tzedakah Box was getting used—often—as a glorified swear jar. To be honest, it still is.) I wanted to really show my son what good deeds looked like, not just tell him that it’s good to help others. Plus, the 2016 election was ramping up, and I needed an outlet more than ever before.
I looked into it and learned that the national organization, I Support the Girls, was founded by a woman in the DC area named Dana Marlowe. She’d lost some weight and learned, in the course of looking into what to do with her old bras, about the immense need for bras and menstrual products for women experiencing homelessness. She did a drive for bras and was amazed at the outpouring of donations she received. She also learned more about menstrual equity and the human rights issue around periods. Once Dana started collecting these items, word got around, and women started coming out of the woodwork to help. Now there are dozens of affiliates in the US and worldwide.
I started the I Support the Girls – Detroit affiliate in July of 2016, and since that time we have collected and distributed over 3,500 bras and over 87,000 menstrual products to shelters and other organizations here in Detroit. My son has been a part of the action every step of the way, helping me stack boxes and count tampons. It’s been fun to have a buddy to help me, and I’m pretty sure he’s already seen more bras than most guys will see in a lifetime.
My son is starting to understand more now, but even before he did, it was great to just be able to tell him that the counting and boxing and delivery runs we were doing were helping people. If you want to incorporate more giving into your kids’ lives, here are a few other things that worked for me:
- Make your Salvation Army or food bank runs with your kids in tow. It can be a hassle to pack little kids up for this kind of trip, but just think of it an activity in itself. Talk to them about what you’re doing on the way, and let them help you carry things and shake hands with the people accepting donations.
- When you clear out unused toys, make it a conversation. (If you’re like me, you get rid of a lot of toys surreptitiously too, so pick your battles here.) If there are toys you know your kids don’t use anymore, talk to them about how they can give them to other kids so they can have fun with them too.
- Make it routine. If your kid continually sees you giving and hears you talking about the work you’re doing in the community, it will feel like a natural part of his or her life, and not a chore or a special event.