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Drop Your Drawers For Charity

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My mother gave me a gift this year. It was a bound and translated copy of her own mother's letters to her, written and mailed from a refugee settlement in Salzburg in the late 1940's. These letters were accounts of family happenings back in Europe and messages of love to a daughter who had pursued hope across the Atlantic, in Canada. Impossible to ignore, there were also requests for material goods to be sent back if her daughter's new world prosperity would at all allow; requests that were indicators of the difficult living conditions in Europe's rubble.

Antibiotics, sugar and shoes were among the expected enumerations of these letters' requests. But one particular petition stood out for me, an item so commonplace in my life that I have never before given it a second thought. Her mother desperately needed elastic waistband material because the little children's underwear was falling apart and she hoped to mend the articles.

The picture in my mind of my maternal grandmother patiently waiting for the arrival of some elastic so she could take care of her little ones' hidden needs is something I cannot shake. My own kids have outgrown plenty of pairs of bright white underwear that still had a lot of life left in them but underwear is not a used clothing category that Goodwill handles. With momentary guilt, I have had to discard these pieces.

Most of us think nothing of walking into a discount department store and chucking a package containing several pairs of simple undergarments into our baskets. The price is about as unexciting as the product itself, posing no hardship at the cash register. But now I am thinking that my definition of hardship is a very limited one and that there are many depths to this term that coexist in our own American communities.

I put some cursory research into the subject and have discovered that donations of new underwear and both baby diapers and adult diapers, are welcomed by shelters and charities. It seems I am not the only one who applies the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon to this clothing donation category. Charitable organizations always have a need for a supply of these items.

It occurs to me that organizing a Drawer Drop or Diaper Drive would be an effective way to privately commemorate that lifeline between my mother and grandmother. Not only would it serve as a help to the end recipients, but it would also help raise a community's charitable awareness about an often forgotten necessity.

Cotton underwear and disposable baby diaper contributions may initially appear to be the main focus of such an event but there are some other important elements to consider. The expense of both disposable baby diapers and adult diapers do not come under the umbrellas of the WIC , Medicare or food stamps programs. This often leaves an already strapped family in a deeper lurch over some basic necessities that cannot be ignored. Adult diapers and adult incontinence products may seem like an unusual component of a charity drive, but it is important to realize that adult diapers are a financial burden for many seniors living on the edge and family caregivers who already have a full plate of financial obligations.

Organizing this type of a donation event can be a lot of work but there is also a lot of community fun and spirit to be experienced. Once there is an established partnership with a charity that will be taking delivery of the results, publicizing the event is the next most important step. Posters and literature announcing the upcoming drive should be up at churches, clinics, schools and storefronts. These places all make excellent collection sites as well. A local radio station should be able to make free announcements as part of their public service and maybe even volunteer a personality to broadcast from the main collection site. Festivity offerings like a small petting zoo or rides in a firetruck can all add up to a big turnout.

If one wanted to kick things up a notch or two, in the words of a popular chef, a cocktail occasion celebrating the cause could be a ticketed event. Admission would also require the drop of donated undies or adult diapers at the door for a fun "Drop Your Drawers" evening. An evening like this has the promise of popular appeal and could easily become an annual event.

My mother, as an eighteen year old girl working overtime shifts of emptying bedpans and hauling soiled linens, packed many parcels with footwear, clothing and medicine for her far away loved ones. A roll of elastic waistband material was dutifully and carefully tucked into one such package. That was a different era. Although thankfully not on the same scale, there are some similar needs today on our own home front and we can certainly tackle an underwear drive.
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