Q. Where are you from and what are you passionate about?
A. I grew up in the Chicago area, but I now live in Rock Island, Illinois, one of the Quad Cities spanning the Mississippi River in Illinois and Iowa. I live in an area with a lot of natural beauty, where it's easy to see the negative effects humans have had on our environment, so environmental causes are high on the list of things that move me to take action. But I'm also passionate about social justice. I don't know how anyone can ignore the inequality, poverty, and abuse that exist everywhere in our world, even in our own neighborhoods. I want everybody to have the same chance I've had at a good life.
Q. Tell us about your heart for justice and what you decided to do about it.
A. There's so much that needs to be done and it's easy to get overwhelmed by that. I think a lot of people get stymied by the idea that there's a huge lack of justice in the world and there's no way one person can change that. But once you get started and you see your small efforts make small changes, it helps you understand how you're just a piece of a big movement and your contribution makes it work. I started pretty small, throwing a little money at a few causes that mattered to me. Then I began volunteering with a refugee resettlement program and was able to meet and talk to actual people whose lives were being changed by the agency I was working with. It was a shot in the arm for me to try to do more. Now I feel like I'm not really satisfied with my life if I'm not actively working on something that helps others, whether that’s volunteering or serving on a board or heading up a drive (or some combination of all of the above).
Q. What inspired you to connect with Free The Girls?
A. A few years ago, my mom told me about the collection box her church had for Free The Girls as they were doing a bras & bucks drive. I loved the idea & was excited to learn about Free The Girls, but I wasn't really sure what to do with my new knowledge, other than send in my gently used bras. I really wished someone in my area would sign up as a permanent drop-off location (it's at least a couple hours' drive to the nearest one) or start a bra drive. But that didn't happen, and after Free The Girls had been percolating in the back of my mind for a couple years, I decided I was going to have to take the reins if I wanted to see a big effort for them in my area.
Q. How were you able to connect with and involve your local community?
A. I started by reaching out to some businesses and churches I thought might be interested in being collection points for a bra drive in our area. I'm lucky enough to have a pretty big network of local friends and acquaintances who care about social justice, and eventually I found ten locations around the area that wanted to collect bras and bucks for Free The Girls – a coffee shop, a florist, a hair salon, and more. I created a Facebook event to publicize the drive, and I invited all the women I know in my area – and I also asked them to share it and invite their friends. This really helped me spread the word, as we ended up with well over 1000 people invited to the event.
I gave the drive a timespan of a couple months so lots of people could hear about it and have a chance to make their donation. I posted in the Facebook event page periodically – sometimes information about Free The Girls, and sometimes updates on how the drive was coming along. I talked about the drive wherever I went and asked the folks at the drop-off locations to talk about it too. I found that pretty much everyone I talked to just loved the idea. Gently-used bras are an easy ask, because so many of us have one or two that we don't like but didn't just want to toss, and maybe we weren't sure where to donate it. And sex trafficking has been in the news in our area in recent years, so I think it's something a lot of my neighbors have on their minds and are appalled by – but they don't know what to do about it. This gave us all a concrete way we could help change lives affected by sex trafficking, and everyone who donated was able to feel good about being a small part of a big movement.
I've also talked to a couple of the drop-off locations about becoming permanent collection points for Free The Girls donations. I would love to see this happen so we can provide an easy way to help, ongoing in our area.
Q. How has your work with Free The Girls impacted you?
A. I feel so empowered by the success of our drive! Being able to make such a big contribution is gratifying and makes me want to do more.
Q. Who are some of your heroes/heroines or people you look up to in this work?
A. I'm inspired every day by the activist women in my community who are working for a better world. Some of them are running for and serving in local political office; some are heading up local chapters of important organizations like Dress for Success and Habitat for Humanity and the Sierra Club; some are being vocal and pushy about change that they demand in our community and country and world. None of them are famous and most probably never will be, but they get stuff done.
Q. If you could inspire others to become Everyday Abolitionists too, what advice would you share?
A. Make use of your connections! Tell everybody you can about Free The Girls, and ask them to help you spread the word. This is a cause that resonates with people (especially women) – almost everybody you talk to is going to understand how important it is to help.
Thank you, Linnea, for being an inspiring example of an Everyday Abolitionist! We’re so grateful for your contribution!