They should never be a barrier to cleanliness, to confidence, or to achieving big dreams. Their absence should never be a cause for distraction or shame, or an inhibitor to success. For too many in our midst, this is still not the reality.
Why we’ll never
get over undies
Undies should only ever be a barrier when they’re between you and your clothes.
Times are tough, and tens of thousands of kids in the U.S. don’t have access to clean underwear.
Many children whose families struggle to make ends meet move through their days with hand-me-downs or nothing at all, because they don’t have enough pairs to get them through the week. Others have no families to turn to—and rely on social service programs who themselves are woefully under-equipped with these simple essentials.
Whatever the sans-undies scenario, it is often humiliating, uncomfortable—even scary for children who are frightened an adult or peer can smell or tell what they’re missing. Our very own Captain Underpants, founder Rabbi Amy Weiss, has been working to bring undies to everyone since 2012. What began as a small effort to donate “spare pairs” to school nurses has evolved into a powerful initiative to address this human need at a national level.
It started as a single blog post ten years ago.
Underwear is a basic need most of us take for granted—and it’s one of the most overlooked items donated to kids who aren’t so lucky. When a social worker pointed this out to Rabbi Amy, Amy was inspired to write a blog in the “Houston Chronicle” calling for help. She was blown away by the enthusiastic response from readers, whose small, informal donations and collections quickly snowballed from her living room in Houston into our registered nonprofit, Undies for Everyone.
By 2017, UFE had distributed more than 200,000 pair of underwear annually to school nurses and back-to-school events throughout Houston. Then Hurricane Harvey hit. UFE Advisory Board member Brené Brown posted a Facebook video about Undies for Everyone—and the powerful relief a spare pair could provide—and once again, the response was astounding. We received 1.5 million pair of underwear to our offices, and our small team quickly pivoted to distribute every pair within three months to families affected by Harvey. By the following fall (2018), two million pair of underwear were given to men, women, and children who had lost everything in the storm.
This experience both moved us deeply and gave us the confidence to expand. Now Undies for Everyone assists more than 100,000 children each year across Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. While our focus remains on getting more undies to more kids, we believe agility is as essential as the goods we provide. We shift our efforts to families as best we can when disaster strikes, and we are always grateful and amazed by the passion and generosity of our community. Stay tuned and reach out if you’d like to get involved—we’ve got big dreams, and more plans in the works!