emBRAce, one of IU’s smallest philanthropy clubs, provides support for low-income women in more than one sense of the word.
Members of the club collect new and gently used bras and donate them to shelters that offer services for women in need.
“The bra is the least-donated article of clothing, so that’s something women need all the time,” club president Carrie Risner said. “When you have a nice bra, it’s supposed to surround you and support you and make you feel good about yourself, and when you’re a woman in need it’s hard to find that.”
The club has collected and donated an estimated 350-400 bras this year and almost 600 last year. Risner said the organization collaborates with shelters such as Middle Way House and Agape House.
“Monroe County has a very high homeless rate and Bloomington’s our home for four years of our lives,” she said. “We feel it’s our duty to give back to our community. We’ve found this is one of the more interesting and fun ways to give back.”
The organization, which began two years ago and was officially registered last year with Student Life and Learning, was inspired by a similar group in Chicago called Support1000. As a junior, IU student Farihah Hossain contacted the president of Support1000 for permission to start a chapter in Bloomington.
Due to copyright issues, Hossain was not able to use the name “Support1000,” but representatives of the group gave her permission to use the idea to start a philanthropy in Bloomington with similar goals and a different name.
Risner, a sophomore, was recruited by Hossain last year to act as coordinator of dorm outreach. The group works with residence halls and greek houses to set up donation boxes for a week. Members then wash and catalogue the donated items and send them to organizations in Bloomington which care for women in need.
Risner said the club is looking to expand. However, because it is a new organization and currently has only three members, she thinks some students are hesitant to join.
Freshman Stephanie Barber, the most recently inducted member of the organization, said they are planning to have call-out meetings in the fall to recruit new members. She said she thinks emBRAce is a worthy cause because it helps women who are in difficult situations.
“It gets me, emotionally, to see them suffering because I know what women need and what they want in life,” Barber said. “I feel like we can help them by providing the simple things in life that can provide security and confidence.”
Sophomore Grant Montgomery was recruited by Risner this year to reach out to residence halls and advertise the philanthropy. He said he hopes emBRAce will have a booth at the club fair this fall and spread the word about this philanthropy, because they want to start promoting awareness of the issue and collecting donations early next year.
“It not only helps by giving bras to those who need them, but it also makes it apparent in the community to know that’s the least-donated item,” Montgomery said.
Risner said she thinks emBRAce helps women who are unable to buy essentials like food on their own, let alone undergarments.
“When you’re wearing a really nice bra you feel really good about yourself, you feel like you can take on the day,” she said. “A lot of women who come from these terrible situations need that support.”