The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Northeastern student’s nonprofit empowers unhoused women with makeup

Samantha Asprelli poses for a photo. She identified a need in Boston’s unhoused population: affordable beauty products. Photo courtesy Give n’ Glow.

Samantha Asprelli is empowering Boston’s unhoused women, and she’s doing it with makeup.

Give n’ Glow is a nonprofit organization that collects donations of lightly-used makeup or skincare products and distributes them to women in at-risk situations. This unique service aims to help women emotionally through the difficulties of homelessness, and Asprelli started it all.

“I was involved with Project 351 … a nonprofit led by youth in Massachusetts,” the second-year business administration major said. “The founder of Project 351 is a woman … She believed in the power of young people to give back. That’s exactly what I saw in myself.”

Since August 2023, Give n’ Glow has provided hundreds of products to disadvantaged women, Asprelli said. Instead of wasting these cosmetics, they are donated to those who can’t budget for their own. Anyone, from large makeup companies to skincare hobbyists, can contribute to the cause through a simple donation.

Boston’s On The Rise, a shelter organization that serves unhoused transgender and nonbinary communities, sees a need for makeup that Give n’ Glow has filled.

“We get a lot of donations from community members and other organizations, but having partnerships with organizations that are more specialized makes our lives a lot easier,” On The Rise Director of Development Andrea Kalsow said. “Our participants want and really appreciate the makeup. It makes them feel special, it makes them feel beautiful, it makes them feel like a person.”

Asprelli, a self-described “women’s advocate,” saw an important need for affordable beauty in Boston’s unhoused population. 

“When you look at our society, sometimes makeup is needed for women to be taken seriously,” she said. “Give n’ Glow helps homeless women take a step up.”

Give n’ Glow has received donations from major brands such as First Aid Beauty and local companies like Flyte 70. Additionally, it has events with many of Boston’s charitable groups like Women’s Lunch Place.

“[Give n’ Glow] matched up really well with our whole plan for the guests,” said Stacey Zellen, program manager at Women’s Lunch Place. “It’s really important to make sure that we are empowering the ladies.”

Makeup is just one part of the mission. After the women pick out new makeup from a spread across the table, Asprelli and a partner organization host a mental health workshop. These empowering sessions help unhoused women see more than just their circumstances.

“There are so many things these women have been affected by,” Asprelli said. “Are beauty products going to be the sole reason they get out of their homeless situation? Absolutely not. But [self-expression] can be the catalyst for their mental health while they’re fighting.”

Boston’s rehabilitation systems for unhoused individuals are difficult to navigate. Advocates like Zellen know too well the lofty 10-year timelines, language barriers and unaffordable prices that burden this process.

“Folks that we’re working with, they’re often contending with multiple, overlapping challenges,” she said. “If just daily survival is what’s going on for you, it can be really hard to stay on top of all the things you have to do.”

Give n’ Glow’s workshops and cosmetic donations are key to motivating these women through their difficulties, Asprelli said. Zellen notes the mental health benefits of Give n’ Glow’s services, and how the organization helps homeless women find control in their lives.

“[Many people] have control over what [they] do, and our guests are in a position where they’re not,” Zellen said. “They have no control over where they sleep, where they eat, how many times a day they eat, where they can go to the bathroom. Giving [unhoused women] a little bit of empowerment with makeup or a new outfit makes a difference in their self-esteem.”

But while Give n’ Glow has earned many successes, difficulties finding products and partners stand in the way of its cause. Reaching out to well-established organizations is harder with the new nonprofit’s smaller reputation.

“I’m telling you the stories of one yes, but we have 100 nos behind that,” Asprelli said. “Our biggest struggle is getting a diverse array of skin tones for concealer and foundation. We’re waiting for the partner to say, ‘Whatever you need… we’re there for you.’”

The generational gap between Asprelli and other nonprofit leaders has created additional  challenges. Many charitable groups look for senior organizations when selecting partners and choose professionals over students. But where many would see obstacles, Asprelli sees opportunity.

“The challenge of being young and using that challenge as a turning point to success is so necessary,” Asprelli said.“You’re playing catch-up all the time. But I’m going to play until I beat them.”

Donated makeup in a box. Give n’ Glow received donations from companies like First Aid Beauty and Flyte 70. Photo courtesy Give n’ Glow.

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