People turn to Public Storage every day for more space, because it’s important to find the perfect place to keep loved items. One mother-daughter duo is using their Florida Public Storage unit to do more than clear their closets. They’re giving a boost to women in their community by storing donated makeup and disturbing it to those who can’t afford it but find it helpful.
In 2012, high schooler Erica Harreveld lost her self-confidence because of acne and skin issues. She found solace in makeup and realized that she could help other girls and women do the same.
“I found makeup and self-care to be a huge confidence booster in my life,” she said. “I thought that if makeup could help my self-esteem, what impact could it make on other women who were facing serious, even life-threatening issues?”
And so her charity Cosmetics for a Cause was born. Since Erica was so young when she started this effort (she’s currently finishing up her senior year at Barnard College), her mom Charlene (pictured above) stepped up to help while her daughter studied.
“We had no idea there was such a need,” said Charlene. “We donate the items to other nonprofits in the area that help women in crisis.”
Since starting this venture, the family has been helping domestic violence victims, recovering addicts and refugees by rejuvenating their self-confidence thanks to the donated makeup. Premium products purchased at department stores can run into the hundreds to complete a polished look for job interviews and the like, and so far, the pair estimate that they have collected $2.5 million in donations. They plan to accept a lot more now that they have the space for it at their new Public Storage unit in Florida.
One Girl’s Struggle Turns into a Successful Charity
While other high schoolers were spending their summer as a relaxing vacation, Erica was starting to build her nonprofit with help from her family.
“She was scheduled to go to summer camp before junior or senior year of high school,” Charlene said. “She really liked makeup, and she wanted to explore that as a service project.”
So the family took the money that was intended to pay for summer camp and started Cosmetics for a Cause instead.
Since then, the charity has grown beyond Erica and Charlene’s expectations. Major companies like e.l.f and Urban Decay are just some of the few retailers that they say have shipped them donations to help.
“We used to exclusively get donations from individuals, but over the past couple years we have started working with major cosmetics companies who donate to us in bulk quantities, which has really pushed us to the next level,” said Erica.
Thanks to Cosmetics for a Cause, a lot of perfectly-good makeup has been saved from the trash.
“We’ve became a sort a clearing house for company’s discontinued items,” her mom added. “We got a ton of lip gloss because it was mislabeled. Instead of throwing it away, the company sent it to us.”
What started a small effort has turned into an “overnight success,” said Charlene. And not just for Erica, but for many women around Florida.
“When I first started the organization, I primarily thought we would be helping abuse victims, but our scope has expanded well beyond that range because there are so many great causes out there that help any and all women in need,” said Erica. “In the past we have donated items to recovering addicts, victims of sexual assault, cancer patients, low-income women, and many more.”
Outpouring of Donations Needed a Home
As more companies and people learned about Cosmetics for a Cause, tons of makeup started showing up on the Harreveld’s doorstep. Only problem was, they didn’t have the space at home to store it.
“The most difficult part is that we had no idea that it would be successful, so we weren’t prepared for the success,” said Charlene.
The family tried to make do with the space they had, but they soon filled the garage, Erica’s room and every other place they could find. Space got so scarce, they started storing the donations in the bathtub.
“We had to turn down more than we could accept, because we didn’t have the room for it,” said Charlene. “e.l.f wanted to send us 60 pallets of makeup, and we could only fit 10 in our garage.”
So she started looking for an easily-accessible, off-site solution.
“It was vital to me, since I’m doing it on my own while Erica’s at college, to have a unit close to home,” she said. “If I had to drive far away, it would be more of a burden than a help.”
Thankfully, she found a Florida Public Storage down the street with an affordable 10-foot-by-10-foot unit ready to rent.
“The price was right and the location of the unit is great,” she said. “You just open the door and walk right down the hallway. We don’t have to turn corners or maneuver, it’s just right there.”
Now that they have the extra room, Erica is excited to distribute more makeup to appreciative women who couldn’t afford it otherwise.
“My goal is to always help the most amount of people possible,” she said. “With our storage unit, now we can accept more donations than ever before.”
The Future is Bright for Women-Run Nonprofit
Thanks to their newfound space, the Harreveld’s have been able to expand the scope of their work and they hope to grow the charity into other states to help women nationwide.
“Hearing how people were excited to receive makeup always motivates me to keep going,” said Erica. “We have been taking baby steps along the way, but some of our immediate goals are to cover the cost of shipping when people donate and be able to ship our donations to other organizations around the country, rather than being restricted to local charities.”
If you’re interested in donating new, unopened makeup, visit the Cosmetics for a Cause website. Or if you want to help but perhaps don’t have extra product to give, funds can be donated through the charity’s PayPal account.
“We are always accepting donations!” said Erica. “Host donation drives at your school, work, or church, and either donate it to us or find a local charity that would accept makeup.”
Photos courtesy of Charlene Harreveld.