Women and girls in need of essential items such as bras, underwear and hygiene items can get them for free at an I Support The Girls event this Saturday, Sept. 12, in Oak Harbor.
Whidbey’s first-ever Bras & Beauty Happening will offer the much-needed items to any woman fleeing abuse, experiencing homelessness or who otherwise is in need. COVID-19 rules will apply. Only four women will be allowed into the event at a time. Volunteers will hand out masks and gloves at the door.
Kate Mistler is the director of Whidbey’s I Support The Girls affiliate and became involved with the organization last year.
Since 2019, volunteers have collected more than 143,000 items to donate to local women in need. Whidbey’s group is the only one of its kind on the West Coast, although the organization does work in other parts of the U.S. and abroad.
“Our group wants easy access for all women to the products they need, to stop period poverty and to stop the stigma for ladies who can’t get what they need,” Mistler said.
“The public needs to be aware that this is not a taboo subject — this is a fact of life.”
Mistler also explained that her group partners with local organizations, such as The Haven, North Whidbey Help House, Opportunity Council and others to get the essential items to the women who need them. Saturday’s event is the first time the group has organized their own give-away event. Mistler said she hopes the group will be able to do this once or twice a year.
“Our organization is a little different because one of our main mantras is ‘Local donations stay local,’” Mistler said.
However, like many other charities, COVID-19 has had a big impact on the group.
“It’s going strong, but COVID put a real big dent in everything,” she said. “Demand has gone up almost by 40 percent and it’s going to keep going before this is over, but donations have dropped to hardly anything.”
Donations are about a quarter of what they were before COVID-19 started.The group used to put up a table or boxes in front of stores and accept donations in-person, but some stores are hesitant to allow it during the pandemic.
There are three drop-off boxes in Oak Harbor if people would like to donate: one is at New Image Beauty Salon on Pioneer Way, one is at Sugar Studio on Midway Boulevard and one is at the Great Clips near Haggen.
Mistler said she is looking for more places to put a donation box in Coupeville and further south. There is also one outside Mistler’s home.
The group needs new or gently-used bras of all sizes and styles, new underwear of all sizes and styles, feminine hygiene products, bladder control briefs and pads, socks and toiletries.
“People have their own passions, and this is mine,” she said.
“To me, this is a really important thing. It’s a very natural thing, and there’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
Saturday’s event is from noon to 3 p.m. at Rolling Hills Club House at 1093 Sidney St., Oak Harbor, WA 98277. To learn more about donating or volunteering, contact Kate Mistler at 360-678-2090 or firstname.lastname@example.org