Alumna receives Arizona Governor’s Volunteer Service Award

Elaine Birks-Mitchell MAOL’99 was recognized for her work with her nonprofit, The Undie Chest.

Elaine Birks-Mitchell MAOL’99 talks about her volunteer efforts in this video from the Arizona Governor's Office of Youth, Faith & Family.

Watch the video

This April, St. Catherine University alumna Elaine Birks-Mitchell MAOL’99 was awarded the Inspired Adult Leadership Award at the 2023 Arizona Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards. The annual awards honor individuals and organizations dedicated to serving Arizonans through their volunteer efforts.  

Birks-Mitchell was recognized for her work as the founder of nonprofit The Undie Chest, which seeks to reduce hygiene poverty by donating underwear to organizations and families in need. The Undie Chest serves homeless shelters, transitional programs, families living in poverty, survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence, and students in Title I schools. 

“We found a need in our community of families and schools that were lacking something very basic,” said Birks-Mitchell. “We wanted to help fill that gap…It started small by just asking the question, ‘What do you need?’”

The Undie Chest accepts donations for new women’s and girls’ bras and underwear and new men’s and boys’ underwear and T-shirts. Donations come in from across the country to their warehouse in Arizona, where they are sorted in partnership with EPI-HAB Phoenix, an organization working to provide job opportunities for adults with disabilities. 

Birks-Mitchell is also the co-founder and executive director of The Bra Recyclers, a clothing recycling company that focuses on reusing new and pre-owned bras. The Undie Chest operates as the nonprofit arm of The Bra Recyclers. 

“The Undie Chest was my way of trying to give back,” said Birks-Mitchell. “It’s about saying, ‘I want to do something kind of selfless.’ It’s about others in the community. It’s about saying, ‘I’m going to make a conscious decision to invest in my own community, and in the people in that community.’"

Elaine Birks-Mitchell holds an award

Photo courtesy of Elaine Birks-Mitchell.