Speaker 1 Welcome to Talking Cities. I'm Diane Moca. Today we're going underneath, past the surface. We're talking about bras. That's right. It's something women don't think about that often unless they don't have them, women who are victims of homelessness, sex trafficking, or domestic violence. And we are with Cynthia Gamboa Morales, and she is the founder and director of the organization Cups Bra Drive to talk about bringing dignity and self respect to those women. Cynthia, thank you for joining me and tell me how much of a problem is this really? Because I've not heard about it.
Speaker 2 Well thank you for having me, Diane. I really appreciate being here with you today. And I didn't realize it was that much of a problem until my mother was battling breast cancer. I found out that there was a real need in our shelters for these items that our seldom donated. It is part of a woman's identity. How she feels about herself in her body encompasses everything she does in her life. How she carries herself, how she feels about going to a job interview. I've had a number of women from Hesed House tell me how empowered they feel to be able to stand up for themselves, to feel well in their bodies, to go to work.
Going to work with a horrible fitting bra or a bra that doesn't fit is like walking around with the shoes that are too small for your feet or that are just torn up. It doesn't feel comfortable. It doesn't feel encouraging. You can't run fast in broken shoes. Think of a bra like your shoes, you replace them. You go and get new ones. You feel great. They make you feel great. They make you jump up higher. That's a bra for a woman. And a woman that's already feeling bad about her situation, feeling bad about not being financially stable, being homeless or victimized gets that ump from having that empowerment of being able to carry herself and her body with respect and dignity.
Speaker 1 So a lot of people hear about problems every day, but they don't do anything about it. What is it that motivated you to take the step of founding a nonprofit?
Speaker 2 Thank you. My mother. She empowered me because she went through my bras and went through my drawers and said, "Listen, we're going to take all of these that you are not using." And I found out that the average woman in the US has about 17 bras that are stored away that they're not using and they could put those bras to good use. So my mother took all of my bras, put them out in the end of the driveway and marked them for free for a garage sale. And somebody came and picked them up and sent them to a sister and Indonesia. And that was empowering to me because that told me that there was somebody else that needed them. This is what my mother had left for me, for her legacy as well as for my own. So it was a need in my community and I am so glad that she empowered me to do that.
Speaker 1 So I wonder about the timeline when you were first hearing about this and your mother was battling cancer and you were obviously focused on your mom with that battle. So when did you decide to take that step? Did your mom see that or was that something later in the future?
Speaker 2 My mother did not get to see it, unfortunately. So my mother passed away in 2015 and I went down to Texas with my husband for about four months. And I was standing on a cold, and I still can feel the cold marble floor in the hotel and just plugged to CNN. And at that point, there was a lot of turmoil in politics. So I was plugged into the news, every news channel. And so I remember hearing a story about Maryland, Maryland, Wheaton, Maryland, Wheaton, Maryland. Well, I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois so I plugged in. I was like, "What's happening in Wheaton, Maryland," because it's always curiosity when you hear other cities being named and on the news. And it was a woman that had founded Support the Girls.
And so she had asked for other women to donate bras and that quickly drew me back to my mother and that moment coming into my room and asking me to go through my drawers and going through my bras and saying, "Listen, we need to take these bras and put them out because somebody's going to need them. Somebody will buy them," she said. And I said, "Don't sell my bras." Like, "Don't." Like, "Ewe, gross," right? Because you think about bras and underwear and you just get icky, right? It's icky. And so she just knew. She just knew. She just knew that other women may not have the same access. So we can go to Walmart. We can go to Target. We can go to different places to buy bras, but you and I know that bras can go from anywhere from $10 to $100.
Speaker 1 And there's a difference in quality.
Speaker 2 Absolutely. And so when I found out that the average woman has 17 brass stored away that they're not using, that they're not utilizing, they're just in the drawer, I thought, "They can give bras to." It's super easy. All you have to do is go through your drawers. Look for those bras that you're not using, or go to the store and find an incredible deal that you can't can't leave it on the rack, bring it. I will put it to use. The ladies that volunteer with me, we all sort the bras. I have bra fitters that come to Hesed to fit the ladies so it's not just giving these bras out. We're fitting the ladies with proper fitting bras.
Speaker 1 And that makes a difference, I know.
Speaker 2 And that really makes a difference.
Speaker 1 The first time you've ever gone to Victoria's Secret and got it fitted properly is life changing, right? Have you experienced that? I know I have.
Speaker 2 So I've gone to Bare Moxi and I can tell you, Bare Moxi in Geneva is incredible and I've partnered with them time and time again.
Speaker 1 What's some of the stories that you have heard? I mean, do you know if you're making an impact?
Speaker 2 Oh, absolutely. Oh my gosh. So the second year that we held the Cups Bra Drive event, Quad Day from Hesed House gave me a call. And so she was telling me how after the first year of the Cups Bra Drive coming to the Hesed House service day and doing a service day and gifting the ladies bras, she was able to feel confident in her skin and body. And this is where I got this from her because she was so empowered that she got a job and she got housing and she is now on her own. And every year that we go back to Hesed House, she makes it a point to come back and get bras. And that's okay. That's what we want for her. We want her to keep succeeding. We want her to keep being amazing.
Another story is of a woman who her and her daughters were at the homeless shelter and her daughters had sports bras. And her daughters were okay with what they had, but she had nothing. She had washcloths and really a shoe string that was supporting her. And this is a woman that's very well endowed. And so these bras are expensive. They're extremely expensive. And you don't find them at Victoria Secret. You don't find them at Target. It's definitely-
Speaker 1 Oh, cause different sizing.
Speaker 2 It's definitely a special sizing.
Speaker 1 Has it grown each year that you've done this?
Speaker 2 Oh my gosh, every year. Year over year we've accumulated. The first year was 600 bras, which can I just tell you it was-
Speaker 1 Wow. I didn't expect that number.
Speaker 2 Right. Right. It was the first year. And I was-
Speaker 1 This is just locally.
Speaker 2 ... Out of the water. Yes. By the response. Just blown out the water by the response, by the-
Speaker 1 And there was that much need. All of those went to use.
Speaker 2 Yes. All of those bras went over to Hesed House, Mutual Ground, Free the Girls. So absolutely. No bra gets left behind, we'll put it that way. Lately we have over 7,000 bras that we've collected. And I say, we... They come from everywhere. I've had people send me bras from Utah, Georgia, so many places, Florida. So they don't have to be instate to donate. They can be anywhere to donate to Cups Bra Drive.
Speaker 1 So how can people find out more if they do want to get involved?
Speaker 2 Yeah. My most fantastic and best fun with this organization that I've had is putting together the Market for a Cause and that's happening October 7th in downtown Aurora at the Aurora Regional Fire Museum from 5:00 to 8:00. And what else can I tell you? We're going to have a DJ, photo booth. We're going to have food trucks.
Speaker 1 Oh, so this is a party.
Speaker 2 It is. It really is. And it really just-
Speaker 1 And you bring the bra to get in.
Speaker 2 You bring the bra to get in.
Speaker 1 Or a few or a box.
Speaker 2 Yes.
Speaker 1 We really appreciate all the great work that you're doing in the community and we hope more people get involved. Thank you so much, Cynthia.
Speaker 2 Thank you.
Speaker 1 And thanks for joining us. For Talking Cities, I'm Diane Moca.
6th Annual CUPS Bra Drive to Support Women in Need is Now Collecting Donations
Cynthia Gamboa Morales started the CUPS Bra Drive years ago when her mother was battling breast cancer. After realizing the need for well-fitting bras in her community, Cynthia started CUPS to give back to women experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, and more. A properly fitting bra gives women the dignity they need to work and live their lives.
You can learn more about donating bras for the October 7th Drive here.
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