Elaine Birks–Mitchell may not be a bra fitter but her work with bras has changed the lives of women across the world. As founder and CEO of The Bra Recyclers, a for-profit bra recycling company, Birks-Mitchell is responsible for the donation of more than four thousand bras to women across the world. From Kenya to Texas, Russia to Arizona, The Bra Recyclers are responsible for helping thousands of women in need. And that’s just the beginning. Next up for The Bra Recyclers is a major donation to the still-struggling women of Haiti. I had the privilege of speaking with Birks-Mitchell to discuss how she started The Bra Recyclers, the rarely-spoken about need for bras in shelters and how we can help bring bras to Haiti.
Q: You started The Bra Recyclers in 2008. What inspired you to start the company?
A: I spoke with someone who worked in a shelter and we were talking about what her women needed. She listed a ton of things so I asked if they needed bras. I had a lot with tags on and I knew a lot of organizations didn’t take them.
Q: Did she take them?
A: She told me they never had enough bras. I called around for other shelters and they all said the same thing. I started investigating and found out bra donation was popular in Europe. But the organizations I spoke to didn’t want to start US branches.
Q: So you did yourself?
A: So I did it myself. There was a need and I decided to do something about it.
Q: How many shelters do you work with in the United States?
A: We currently work with shelters in twelve states. Our goal is support at least one organization in every state. There are shelters everywhere that need help.
Q: What happens to the bras that aren’t donated to shelters?
A: 10% of everything we collect goes to charity. The other non-wearable bras are recycled. We want to reduce the amount of usable textiles going into the landfills.
Q: That’s wonderful. So let’s talk about Haiti. Do you have a donation goal?
A: We’ve collected 400 bras. Our goal is to collect 1000 by February 28.
Q: Is there a particular size the shelters are looking for?
A: They’re asking for sizes 32 – 38 in the band. A majority of their women are smaller because they’re malnourished but there are all types of women in need so we’d like to collect as many sizes as possible.
Q: What condition should the bras be in?
A: The bras should be gently used or new. The straps, hooks and elastic have to be in place and working. There shouldn’t be a lot of heavy deodorant stains or heavily perfumed. And if possible, it would be great if they were washed before sent.
Q: How do the bras get to Haiti?
A: We work with a number of shelters and organizations that help distribute donated bras. With Haiti, we’re working with Angel Wings International. The bras will be distributed in care packages through a local mission in Jacmel.
Q: That sounds great. Now all we need is Oprah.
A: I’ve tried, trust me! But someone told me Oprah would find us so we just keep working hard to help our women.
Please help the cause by donating your gently used or new bras. For every bra you donate, you will receive a percentage off your next purchase.*
If you send in 1 bra: Get 10% off your purchase
If you send in 3+ bras: Get 15% off your purchase
If you send in 5+ bras: Get 20% off and a surprise free gift!
Please send your bras to:
c/o Operation: Bras for Haiti
68 Jay Street. Suite 401
Brooklyn, NY 11201
…and don’t forget to include your email. You will be emailed your discount code.
*Applies to online orders only. Promotion ends Feb 28, 2011. Need a new bra that fits? Visit us at Linda the Bra Lady online!