Second annual Mardi Bra showers homeless, low-income women with gifts

Second annual Mardi Bra showers homeless, low-income women with gifts

February 13th, 2016 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Claudette Andrews, left, laughs with Gloria Harris at the 2nd annual Mardi Bra party Friday, February 12, 2016 at the Salvation Army.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Salvation Army hosts 2nd Annual Mardi Bra

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First Gloria Harris whipped out the Estee Lauder black mascara from her gift bag. Then came the warm-toned eye shadows, matching lipstick, comb and perfume.

"Oh, my God. This is beautiful," she said, brushing her eyelashes with the mascara wand.

Harris was among dozens of homeless and low-income women who were showered with gifts Friday by the Salvation Army's women auxiliary.

It was the nonprofit organization's second annual Mardi Bra celebration, a party hosted just for women to give them feminine hygiene products, new panties, brassieres and other items specifically for females.

"Today we are celebrating you," said Lt. Monica Horton, Salvation Army officer and pastor.

Volunteers Olivia Pikelis and Martha Payne greeted women at the door with colorful red, green, purple and gold necklaces in the spirit of Mardi Gras.

Volunteer Claudette Andrews told women how much she loved them while serving them pizza, cheese balls, doughnuts and Coca-Cola.

Kimberly George, the Salvation Army's director of marketing, said the women's auxiliary started the Mardi Bra celebration in 2015 after noticing the need for items specific to women.

Most homeless service providers cater to a mostly male environment, George said. Women often feel awkward asking a man for feminine hygiene items, and often such supplies aren't available, she said.

Most people who give to the homeless community don't donate underwear. People usually don't donate toiletries or feminine hygiene products, but they are needed, George said.

At least 50 women pre-registered for the event, ensuring that they would have underwear in their sizes. The auxiliary also bought bras and panties of various sizes and styles that they allowed women who didn't register to select from.

The auxiliary purchased fashionable new underwear because they wanted the women to feel special.

"When you get stuff like this, you cherish it," said Harris, lifting a pink lace bra from her bag.

Fifty-six-year-old Linda Moore said the party made her day.

She spent her 56th birthday on Feb. 5 homeless and alone, walking from shelter to shelter. She said it was the most "miserable birthday" ever. But she felt uplifted at the celebration on Friday.

"I'm glad that they respect us ladies on Valentine's Day, when you really don't have family," she said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.