Undies for Everyone, a nonprofit launched by Rabbi Amy Weiss, will have distributed nearly 5 million pairs to children and victims of natural disasters in 16 U.S. cities by the end of the year.
Rabbi Amy Weiss launched Undies for Everyone about 15 years ago, when she learned about the need from a social worker. By the end of this year, her organization will have distributed nearly 5 million pairs to children and victims of natural disasters in 16 cities across the United States. Not having clean underwear can impact a child's self-esteem, attitude and even school attendance. Therefore, Undies for Everyone fills a crucial gap for kids in need whose families may not be able to afford underwear. This is an especially important cause as donation centers typically do not accept used underwear, CNN reports.
"Kids who are at risk need every kind of resource that their families cannot afford to get them," Weiss shared in an interview with the news outlet. "Underwear is just an overlooked item, and it's super expensive. So, the parents who are struggling financially tend to think, 'You can't see the underwear, so it'll be okay.'" At first, she ran underwear drives out of her home for several years to serve children in Houston Independent School District, the largest public school system in the state of Texas, where a large majority of students are financially disadvantaged. Dozens of kids are in transitional situations or even living in poverty.
Ilka Rosado, Manager/Foster Care Liaison for the Houston Independent School District, said, "A pair of underwear seems like a simple thing, but for our students who don't have it, or who have been moving around from place to place, or they left in the middle of the night due to a domestic situation, clean underwear is a big deal. It goes to the core of their self-esteem. You'd be surprised how exciting a pack of new underwear can be for our students." In this context, what started as a one-woman operation had grown into something much bigger by 2017. At the time, Weiss had established relationships with about 30 schools and was on track to distribute over 200,000 pairs of underwear in that year alone.
Unfortunately, in 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas and Louisiana, resulting in more than 100 deaths and leaving people without food, shelter and clothing. "The whole world turned upside down," Weiss recalled. "We were staying at my husband's office. I was holding my shorts up with a phone cord. There was literally no new underwear to give to [those affected by the hurricane]. It's a sign of dignity for anyone who has lost everything ... to have underwear makes you feel better, and it makes you feel a little normal. So we were anxious to help out."
With a little help from her neighbor (and a fierce supporter of her organization) Brené Brown, Undies for Everyone received 1.5 million pairs of underwear from around the world at Weiss' husband's office. Brown posted a video and asked people to send underwear, and it was a real game-changer. Weiss said, "People were coming to volunteer when they heard about what we were doing. They wanted to know if we could help other communities." Ever since, her nonprofit has partnered with local Child Protective Services, Boys & Girls Clubs and Pediatric Mobile Units. She relies on these organizations to distribute donated underwear. She affirmed, "We want to increase these kids' dignity, self-esteem and confidence. And keep them in school. It will help them become more successful in social situations, in academic situations. When they've got underwear, they're just feeling better and more confident. And it's just easier to be a kid." You can learn more about Undies for Everyone by clicking this link.