Last month I introduced you to Hourglassy‘s adopted cause for the year, Support 1000. This month, I introduce you to one of the charities that receives its bras, Foster Care Support Foundation.

When we were teens, most of us just wanted to fit in with our friends, and even with our ill-fitting or industrial strength bras, we did a pretty good job of it.

But imagine that you’re a teen who has just entered foster care in Georgia. You’ve been dropped off at a new home with the clothes on your back, and your new foster parents are being paid $18 a day to cover your expenses. After meals, there won’t be much left for a toothbrush, much less a new D+ bra when your current one stretches out.

That’s where Foster Care Support Foundation enters the picture. In 1996, Rachel Ewald noticed that caring families with average incomes couldn’t afford to be foster parents in Georgia, the third lowest state which is in the bottom third of states in terms of funding reimbursements for foster care.  Instead, children in crisis were being placed in group homes.  Rachel knew that a real home was the best setting for them, so to encourage stable and nurturing families to foster these children, she and a group of friends began scouring their neighborhood garage sales for quality clothing and other items that would help stretch the daily allowance.

Pretty soon, so many donations were showing up on Rachel’s doorstep that she was operating a “store” out of her garage that has since evolved into a giant distribution center north of Atlanta. Children “shop” there for everything they need right after entering foster care, and again in the spring/summer and fall/winter. Everything is free.

As the Foster Care Support website puts it, “Finally, foster children have a resource where they can receive help so that they may not be identified in a crowd by their shabby appearance as ‘foster children’.” In requesting donations, they specify that “Children in foster care need to fit in with their peers in the unfortunate situation that they are in, and looking like mom and dad does not help self esteem, so we ask that all teen sizes are teen styles.”

And as all Hourglassy readers know, a well-fitting bra makes a giant difference in the self esteem of teenage girls, especially if she’s large-busted. Foster Care Support knows it, too. Their Donations page requests “Teen girls bra sizes 34 and up, including cup sizes D and DD.” You can either donate directly to Foster Care Support or indirectly through Support 1000.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering about the fitting process at Foster Care Support. Unfortunately, there isn’t one. The “customers” fit themselves because Foster Care Support has (1) no fitter and (2) no way to know if anyone will even need a bra on a given day. So it can be hit or miss. I know this (and the specification for 34 bands and up) makes us bra-fitting purists wince, but maybe these details will help put things in perspective:

  • Foster Care Support has five staff members performing the work of ten. What keeps them going? Rachel told me, “It’s a mission. We’re not doing it for us. It’s for the kids.  It’s not just a job.”
  • Each week, 50-200 volunteers work in the resource center (they have 40 regular volunteers a week).
  • On a $400,000 budget, Foster Care Support gives away $50 15 million worth of goods each year.

If there’s a chance that one girl’s life will be made happier by a bra I donate, I want to give it. It may not fit perfectly, but the more sizes that we can provide, the better the chance that a girl will find her way to the right one. What are your thoughts on this?

I wish I could volunteer my own time as a bra fitter at Foster Care Support. Are there any Hourglassy readers on the ground in North Georgia who can do this? After the jump, I brainstorm some other ideas.

Again, if you’re like me, you’re probably coming up with possible solutions. Here were mine:

  1. Fairy Bra Mother pen pals! Too bad there’s a pesky little detail like protective custody and confidentiality that makes this off limits. Actually, the confidentiality issue makes it extremely difficult to get media coverage for foster child issues.  As Rachel explained to me, “the media works with images,” but because victims of abuse and neglect can’t be shown, they become forgotten and invisible. Time and again people will say to her, “We had no idea. We just thought the kids were taken care of.”
  2. Contact Intimacy (they began in Atlanta!), Nordstrom’s or another local store with a good reputation and enlist the aid of volunteer fitters. That doesn’t solve the problem of a fitter showing up with no one to fit, but perhaps they could train certain volunteers who work regular hours at Foster Care Support to be fitters. They could also act as a resource for more complicated fitting issues.
  3. Coordinate a giant bra fitting event (similar to Foster Care’s Promapalooza) where girls are fitted in and given everything necessary for a teenage bra wardrobe, including sports bras.

What ideas do you have?