COS COB, Conn. -- Lucy Langley and Laura Delaflor admit they never would have imagined that a meeting 10 years ago, when their kids were on the YMCA Marlins swim team, would have led to a partnership collecting and distributing new, unused underwear to those in need.
The Undies Project started with an idea Langley had in 2014 after volunteering at Neighbor to Neighbor, a local non-profit serving people in Port Chester, N.Y., Stamford and Greenwich. That's when she realized the most under-donated and most needed item of clothing was undergarments. When she spoke to Delaflor who has a background in public relations, about it, her friend quickly joined in.
After many months -- and discussions -- the two empty nesters co-founded The Undies Project in 2015 with the help of Neighbor to Neighbor. It became a registered 501(c)(3) public charity in 2016.
"We knew there was a gap in the items of clothing donated to those in need but we really didn't realize how widespread this unmet need was," said Langley.
"People just don't think about donating new underwear as mostly they are donating used clothing."
Right now, the organization is knee-deep into its second annual "Mardi Bra" event (to coincide with Mardis Gras) where select locations throughout Greenwich, Darien and Westport are accepting gently used bras. ( Details on their website .)
The event runs Tuesday, Feb. 21 to Friday, March 3.
Last year the two women ran the event solely in Greenwich and had 10 donation sites around town. Their goal was modest: 100 bras.
They received more than 700, all of which were distributed through Neighbor to Neighbor. This year they will be donating the bras through Fairfield County organizations that help those in need such as YWCA Domestic Abuse Services, Person to Person, Neighbor to Neighbor, Kids In Crisis, Clothes to Kids of Fairfield County, and Homes for Hope.
"There are so many local businesses that have offered to be donation sites for Mardi "Bra" and we are so grateful for their support.
They are helping to make a difference in the lives of others," said Delaflor.
While The Undie Project generally receives gently used bras, many organizations can only distribute new bras to their clients, so the need is greater for new, unused bras.
"Bras are one of the most expensive items of undergarments," added Langley. "We hope that people who are considering donating will take advantage of store offers such as 'buy one, get one half off,' or 'buy two, get one free,' or use store dollars accrued to purchase a new bra to meet this need."
This year their goal is higher: 1,200 which they are nervous -- but optimistic -- about reaching.
"One of the most heartwarming things we have learned along the way is how truly grateful people are to receive new underwear, and how such a small item has a big impact on them," said Delaflor.
"Another thing we are learning is that there are so many who want to make a difference in the lives of others and we are meeting some truly dedicated, wonderful, charming people who not only are working and volunteering in their own organizations but who are also helping us to succeed in our mission."
On a personal note, the two said working as a team has helped them compliment each of their strengths and weaknesses.
"Where one of us is more business orientated and the other is more focused on the human aspect, we have learned these skills help create a successful working partnership," said Langley.
"We are thoroughly enjoying our work, we laugh a lot and get great satisfaction out of what we do."
And, of course, there are a lot more plans. After "Mardi Bra," they will participate in the Greenwich Paper Shredding Day on April 22 where folks can donate.
They will also hold an Undie Sunday campaign in May through churches and temples, which they'd like to spread to communities throughout the county. In addition, they plan to add a men's underwear drive over Father's Day at select local venues.
And, thanks to the help of Trystan Rodriquez, a student at UConn Stamford, there will be a kids underwear drive for two weeks starting Feb. 20.
Said Langley: "As we continue to grow and the need to provide grows, we are planning to hold a volunteer open house to encourage others to join us and assist us.
"We have many ideas, but there is only so much two people can do!"
Go to www.theundiesproject.org/ for more information.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.