Chattanooga Women Celebrate Mardi Bra

By: Laura Poff

The Chattanooga Women’s Auxiliary hosted its third annual Mardi Bra party to distribute bras, panties and feminine hygiene products to homeless women who are connected to The Salvation Army’s day shelter on Thursday, March 2. Guests pre-registered for the event and were each given new products in their size and a variety of hygiene products to get them through the year. The party involves food, refreshments, a photo booth, a devotional and a celebration of what it means to be a woman.

The goal is to promote dignity while giving homeless women products that they need but may be embarrassed to ask for, something that the women’s auxiliary realized firsthand several years ago when, during one of the many parties they host for the women of the day shelter, an attendee approached an auxiliary member asking for a tampon. For the first time, the auxiliary realized the difficulty of managing monthly cycles as a young homeless woman.

“Most shelters are very male-oriented and typically catered to men,” said Kimberly George, marketing and development director for the Chattanooga Salvation Army. “They often don’t have hygiene products available or, if they do, women have to ask for them, which is embarrassing. The auxiliary wanted to make it easier for women.”

They got to work establishing relationships with local women’s Bible study groups, churches and even a women’s prep school to raise awareness about the lack of availability of basic products and to collect new bras and panties in all sizes along with pads, tampons and liners for women in need.

Nearly 40 women attend Mardi Bra each year. They pre-register for the event so that gift bags can be assembled for each specific woman, with the products and sizes she needs. All of the garments are donated by women in the community with extra hygiene products being made available to women who come into the shelter throughout the year.

“So many people don’t want to talk about feminine hygiene,” George said. “Our women’s auxiliary loves serving. They are so much more than a fund-raising arm; they are an army of servants.”