Personal Legend Project: Rachael Heger

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Rachael Heger, Support the Girls, Indianapolis

Rachael Heger began collecting bras at the beginning of this year to donate to local women’s charities. The goal was to give 3500 bras by her 35th birthday in December. That only took about 90 days, so she kept going.  To date she’s donated 4500 bras, and the scope of the project is only growing. Along with the bras, she also donates much-needed feminine hygiene products to women in need all over the state.

Today I photographed her at her home, which I guarantee has the most bras per square foot of any house in the world.  It’s the Braj Mahal.  She is very enthusiastic about this work, and it’s contagious.  I was almost as excited as she was about finding a 36K bra.  That’s a size, not a price.

Also featured in these photos is Miriam, 3, Rachael’s daughter.  She loves to help sort and play in the giant tote bag she refers to as her “nest”.  Find out more about her work on the Support the Girls Facebook page.

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The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.

1)  Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.”  In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?

I feel a real sense of satisfaction when I’m able to provide for people in need.  In Judaism we call it “tikkun olam”, or repairing the world.  I originally became a librarian because I love connecting people and information.  My work with Support the Girls is very similar to my favorite parts of librarianship: project management, community involvement, providing a service, and of course, organization.  It’s also a little unexpected and niche, and I like that about it, too. I have never used so much positive language and exclamation points as I have with this project! 

Support the Girls is also a big part of my family life. My young daughter goes with me to check my post office box daily, helps untangle bras from the dryer, picks out her favorites, builds towers out of tampon boxes, and drops off big donations at shelters around town.  The organic and ongoing dialogue she and I are able to have about women and poverty is so important.  Setting and reaching goals, and then celebrating, are also important to me.

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2)  When did you first realize that this was your calling?

I started collecting new and gently used bras on January 1, 2016, with the original intention of showing my daughter that helping others is a good way to start off a new year.  I wanted to fill a small box and send them to Dana Marlowe in Washington, DC, who started this initiative. I put an inquiry on a buy-sell-trade neighborhood site and collected 99 bras that first day.  I quickly realized there’s a major need here in Indy, and started to collect locally and distribute locally.  They haven’t stopped coming- I’ve received bras every single day of 2016.  4,500 have been distributed to women in need in Indiana so far this year.

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3)  People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling.  This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.”  When do you experience this most often?

I’m a pretty intense person, and I could sort bras by myself for hours.  It’s probably a good thing that family life doesn’t let this happen.  I work very efficiently, given that my daughter is my first priority, and I’m fortunate that she sees this as her work as well.

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4)  What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?

Even though I’ve been getting about 1,000 bras out of my house each month, they still have overtaken my house!  They are in my basement, playroom, dining room, and often my kitchen and foyer.  I also want to collect and distribute more feminine hygiene products.  About 10,000 have been distributed, but there is a huge unmet need.  Feminine hygiene products are not covered by any sort of government assistance, and these items are often overlooked when people donate to food pantries.  I am always greeted with palpable relief from the agencies who receive pads and tampons.

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5)  What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?

People are generally good and want to help.  I have nearly 1,000 people following my donations on my Facebook page, Support the Girls-Indianapolis, and I’m amazed what a community I’ve created.  I have bras from both coasts, Canada, and nuns in West Virginia, from women who have experienced homelessness, and from women with mastectomies.  Women have given so generously, and have spread the word to their yoga classes, churches, book clubs, employers, salons, and organized bra drives.  I’ve met women who have driven bras to Fort Wayne, Bloomington and Crown Point, enabling Support the Girls-Indianapolis to cover all of Indiana.  Women are kind and want to help each other out.  I’ve also learned that when I ask for help, I can receive it.

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6)  What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?

I remember reading something that said, “Don’t ask your children what they want to be when they grow up, ask them what problems they want to solve.”  I am unable to end homelessness, or prevent domestic violence from happening, but I am solving one problem: women who flee a bad situation will be able to have some dignity and respect with access to bras that fit and pads and tampons when they need them.  Solving a problem gives me such a sense of satisfaction.

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Are you following your Personal Legend?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

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