Help HER Shelter celebrate ‘Mardi Bras’ by donating new underwear for domestic violence survivors


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — You’ve heard of Mardi Gras — well how about Mardi Bras?

The parades have been canceled this year in New Orleans, but in Portsmouth, the HER shelter is celebrating survivors of domestic violence by encouraging the community to “show” them some underwear.

“One of the things that is part of the celebration [in New Orleans] is ladies exposing themselves for pretty beads and so we are going to do the opposite,” said HER Community Engagement Manager Deborah Apperson.

The HER Shelter is collecting new bras, underwear and feminine hygiene products for its clients who often escape their abusers with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

“We rely heavily on donations — however bras and underwear, those are things that you don’t want used donations,” H.E.R Executive Director Olivia Smithberger told WAVY.

They’ll be collecting in-person on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1900 Columbus Avenue in Portsmouth. Or, you can mail donations to the HER Shelter at P.O. Box 2187, Portsmouth, Va. 23702. You can also shop HER’s Amazon wish list and have items delivered directly to the shelter.

That makes now the perfect time for churches, offices and others to organize donation drives or get shopping.

“We’re collecting all sizes, small sizes up to the larger size. We have women of every size in our shelter,” Apperson said.

The shelter has seen a dramatic increase in clients during the pandemic. They need new wardrobes with these essentials as they build a new life.

Cotton, lace, it doesn’t have to be fancy. However, Smithberger agrees a few pretty things in the donation box might be even better than beads at Mardi Gras.

“I think we all like to feel good about ourselves and that’s one little way you can do it. We’re all here for making our clients feel better, so absolutely,” she said.

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