The Panty Schmooze Movement: Something We Don’t Think About
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Underwear and bras. One never thinks of these items when it comes to donating used clothing, and rightly so; that’s quite simply gross. But they are still needed. For the past seven years, Toronto’s Heather Ostertag has put on the Panty Schmooze, an event which rallies the music industry to help raise new unmentionables for women who have been forced to flee abusive situations without their belongings, but there’s no reason why the idea can’t catch on worldwide.
“It’s a way of giving back to a community and celebrate the strength of these women who are leaving in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their back. Shelters being so cash strapped that in some shelters, they are actually handed used underwear and that is just disgusting and not acceptable,” says Ostertag, who was in an emotionally abusive relationship for 17 years.
Her efforts — along with a dedicated “Schmooze Team” — have raised close to 10,000 pairs of panties, along with thousands of other items for various charities. This year’s Panty Schmooze will be held May 3 at The Hot House Café and she is looking for volunteers and businesses to donate items for the raffles, silent auction, gift bags and the shelters. Yorktown Family Services (www.yorktownfamilyservices.com) has been confirmed as a recipient, and others will soon be announced.
“We need everything from linens and pots and pans and dishes and all that stuff to start up a new home to computers for the kids, knapsacks. You name it, it’s needed,” Ostertag tells Samaritanmag.
Admission will likely be $25 plus five panties or $40.
In the past, Canadian performers such as Jully Black, Justin Rutledge, Fefe Dobson, Shaye, Justin Hines, Terry Kelly, Matthew Barber, Luke Doucet, the late Haydain Neale, and others have performed at the fundraiser.
More than 175 other businesses and individuals have donated in the past (a complete list is available under “history” at www.pantyschmooze.com).
“Some people are still with us; others come for a period of time and they move on,” Ostertag tells Samaritanmag. “We’re going to approach them again this year. The world has changed so much in the last couple of years. We’ll know more in the next couple of weeks as the [Panty Schmooze] committees really start to get to work on it.”
Last year’s Panty Schmooze, held at the Palais Royale, raised just under 1,000 pairs of new panties and 100 new bras, plus $14,300 in cash, “our biggest year, ever,” says Ostertag. All proceeds from the event were divided and distributed to two shelters: Julliette’s Place and The Red Door Family Shelter. There have been many other recipients in the past, including Nellie’s Shelter For Women and Anduhyaun.
“The thing that’s still consistent with us is the fact that we don’t spend any money. Every penny raised goes to the shelters,” says Ostertag.
Panty Schmooze was initially the result of an assignment given to her as part of the Landmark leadership course. “You were to follow certain instructions, which I thought were complete and utter nonsense,” she laughs, “but I followed the rules anyway, which is rare for me, and they were absolutely right.
“They had an interesting project design on it and it works perfectly because it shows what kind of leader you are and where your strengths and weaknesses are as an individual. They would encourage you to keep bringing more people into the project and letting them run with their pieces of it, and I did but it’s scary. What it started out in concept and what it became were two different things.”
Her goal? “Just to keep it going, to keep the awareness up, to be able to indirectly message to the women that they’re not alone, that there are people out there that are respecting what they are doing and wanting to support it. The ultimate goal would be to abolish abuse and violence, but I don’t know if that’s even a realistic goal, but if you talk to these women in the shelters, they will tell you how much it means to them it is to be able to go and select the underwear of their choice.”Nike SF-AF1
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.