Retiree’s new super hero role: ‘Capt. Underpants’

There’s generosity to be found on social media after all. A Bowie, Maryland, woman who didn’t want to retire until she could really figure out something productive to do with her time has done just that, using social media to harness the generosity of what she calls her “community helpers.”

They’re the ones who pull up to Nancy Freeman’s home on Twisting Lane to drop off food in one of the bins sitting on her front porch. Lately the other bin has been to collect, believe it or not, underwear.



Freeman is active on the social media platform Nextdoor to help families in need when she heard about someone who could use a little help.

In the past, that’s involved items such as furniture or other things someone landing on their feet out of homelessness might use. Last fall, she asked for help collecting winter coats for students at an elementary school in Prince George’s County. She was hoping for about 20, but got more than 100, which meant she could take more coats to more schools than she first expected.

“One of the schools I went to said that they could really use underpants, which surprised me,” said Freeman.

“But they have pre-K and kindergarten kids, and they have accidents. So before I delivered winter coats to the second school, I picked up a few pairs of underpants just to see if they needed them. Here I am at the school delivering two huge bags of winter coats, but when I asked if they could use the underpants I swear they were almost as excited. That’s when I realized it was time for an underpants drive.”

Nancy Freeman of Bowie is harnessing the generosity of the community to collect underwear for children who have accidents while at school. (WTOP/John Domen)

Freeman posted about it online, she figured she might get around 50 pairs or so. So far she’s gotten more than 1,000.

“They’re coming from the community,” she said. “People just drop them off.”

And it’s not just new, clean underwear for the youngest elementary school students either.
“I also mentioned that some of the fifth-grade girls could also need underpants for other reasons,” she added, and donors came through for them too.

“I have, I have to admit, been labeled Captain Underpants lately,” said Freeman. “It’s a title that I wear proudly.”

But she’s not stopping there. With so many needs in Prince George’s County, Freeman wants to do her part to help meet them, and help others do the same. She plans to start a website that will match those with a specific need — clothes, furniture, other household items — with someone who can meet it.

“I know from my group that if I put on Nextdoor that I have a little boy who needs a size 7 pair of shoes, I’m going to end up with 65 pairs of size 7 shoes,” she said.

It’s part of her plan for retirement: “how to best serve individual needs.”

“My role is to find out where the needs are so all these wonderful, generous people can help fill those needs.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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