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2011 News Releases

Longwood initiative collects Bras and T-shirts for Madeline’s House

May 13, 2011

Longwood staff member Darlene Bratcher (left) and student Eileen Keller were among the organizers of an effort to collect bras and T-shirts for Madeline’s House.
Longwood staff member Darlene Bratcher (left) and student Eileen Keller were among the organizers of an effort to collect bras and T-shirts for Madeline’s House.

A recent initiative at Longwood University collected two desperately needed types of clothing - bras and T-shirts - for Madeline's House, a local shelter for battered women and their children, and helped the environment at the same time.

The effort, initiated and coordinated by the Subcommittee for Student Involvement of the Longwood University Sustainability Committee, was prompted by a desire to help the shelter, which supports a 12-county region, and to reduce textile waste at landfills. An estimated 85 percent of textile waste goes into landfills where it occupies four percent of the landfill space. The average American throws away 68 pounds of textiles per year.

"We have recycled textile products in the past during the annual move-out Drop and Swap, but this was a special recycling program," said Darlene Bratcher, a Longwood staff member who  chairs the subcommittee. "In addition to the environmental benefits, providing these items helps increase Madeline's House guests' self-esteem and sense of worth as they struggle with life changes."

"People at Madeline's House said that bras are the number one item they never have enough of for the women and girls," Bratcher added. "T-shirts of all sizes are also a critical item for people when they arrive, frequently with only the clothes on their backs."

The subcommittee, along with other members of the sustainability committee, sponsored a special bra and T-shirt recycling day May 3 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Lankford Ballroom. Bras were placed in a recycling container (covered in pink paper) with a drop top, and T-shirts, both for females and males, were stacked neatly close by. Additional bras and T-shirts were dropped off in committee members' offices until May 10.

The project collected 237 bras, some 547 T-shirts and more than 100 other miscellaneous items for the shelter. The total weight of all these donates was 254 pounds.

"The turnout was amazing, and we were ecstatic that students, staff and faculty came together to help Madeline's House," Bratcher said. "It was wonderful that we at Longwood proved we could handle a subject as sensitive as bra recycling and turn it into an event of respect and caring for our fellow citizens who needed us. All donated items will be picked up by Madeline's House volunteers, leaving no carbon footprint for Longwood."

Eileen Keller, a senior who was on the subcommittee, also was "impressed with the outcome. I was nervous, since it was exam week and the end of school, which is a busy time of the year, and I didn't know if the word about that day would get out in time. The other student on the subcommittee, Caitlin Zoetis, also was a little worried. But the response just blew us out of the water."

"This effort, Bratcher said, "is a result of the sustainability committee always wondering 'What can we do that is new and creative?' This spring we formed subcommittees to be more pro-active. Last fall I saw a television report about bra recycling. The company in the report collects bras and when people call them saying they need bras, they ship them out at no cost to the shelters. That got me thinking about bra recycling, and then I researched how much textile waste ends up in landfills. When I called Madeline's House, they said they would be thrilled to receive bras, since that is something they never have enough of, and that T-shirts are something that everyone could use and donate."

Bratcher said that the organizers did not want to do this recycling as part of Drop and Swap. "We wanted the bra recycling to be done discreetly and tastefully. We had volunteers from the sustainability committee at the collection site all day on May 3 to thank everyone who came by to donate items. We plan to do bra recycling again in October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and next spring."

In the Drop and Swap program, begun in 2008, students drop off unwanted items and non-perishable food items in side-by-side cardboard boxes, in all residence halls and in the three Longwood-managed off-campus apartment communities, at the end of the spring semester (May 2-13 this year). Students are allowed to help themselves to any of the items, reducing even further the amount taken to the landfill. The food goes to the local FACES food pantry, and the other items have gone to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Madeline's House, a church in Louisa County, and Tail Waggers, a thrift store in Keysville that donates all of its monies to the SPCA in Meherrin. Last year's effort collected 552 pounds of food, 16 bags of clothes, and two full size truck loads of other items. Drop and Swap was initiated by two students, Donika Martin '08 and Adrienne Winney '10, as part of a project in their English 400 class.