Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Above: Lucy Langley and Laura Delafor
At the Greenwich nonprofit Neighbor to Neighbor, Lucy Langley pitched in as a volunteer sorting and hanging donated clothes for clients in need of some gently used apparel. One day, as she organized the racks and bins, she realized a basic necessity was missing. “I thought, No one ever donates underwear.”
Yet fresh underpinnings are the kind of everyday essential—and source of dignity—Lucy knew must be hard to come by for someone struggling. “The average price of a pair of underpants is ten dollars. And think about what a good bra costs. At forty or fifty dollars it hit me: How can people who are low income afford such an expense? And why should anyone struggle with the decision of buying fresh underwear versus putting food on the table?”
Walking their dogs around Cos Cob, Lucy and her friend Laura Delafor conceived of a solution. In 2016 they launched The Undies Project, a nonprofit dedicated to collecting and purchasing new undergarments for men, women and children and distributing them to a growing list of local nonprofits.
“The idea we promote is that clean underwear is not a luxury but a necessity,” says Laura of the operation based out of their Cos Cob homes. “This is a project that gives people dignity, good hygiene and the self-respect they deserve. We are trying to educate people that there is a big, big need.”
The philanthropic duo, who first met as fellow swim-team moms, have taken an enterprising approach to gathering inventory. They make direct purchases from area wholesalers who sell to them at discounted rates. They’ve also launched a series of creatively themed donation drives including a Mardi Bra event last February and Undies Sunday is held in partnership with local churches and synagogues.
On Saturday, October 14, they’ll be hosting a Cocktails & Comedy fundraiser featuring comedian Robin Fox at St. Catherine of Siena Church.
Big on the ladies’ list of items in short supply are bras for women of all shapes and sizes and children’s underwear. “It’s blown our minds how great the need is for all the things we collect,” says Laura. “We only see this growing.”
Since they founded The Undies Project, Lucy Langley and Laura Delafor have expanded their philanthropy to nonprofits in Greenwich and beyond. The list of beneficiaries to date includes:
• CLOTHES TO KIDS FAIRFIELD COUNTY CHAPTER
• NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR GREENWICH
• PROJECT RETURN WESTPORT
• KIDS IN CRISIS COS COB
• KIDS’ KLOSET WESTCHESTER COUNTY
• INSPIRICA STAMFORD
• OPEN DOOR SHELTER NORWALK
• PACIFIC HOUSE STAMFORD
• PERSON-TO-PERSON DARIEN
• HOMES WITH HOPE WESTPORT
To purchase tickets to Cocktails & Comedy visit theundiesproject.org