To kick off this year’s Nexstar’s Woman of the Year competition, WGN’s Erin Ivory caught up with last year’s Grand Prize National Winner, Chicago’s very own, Archana Liggins.
Liggins rose to the top of more than 10,000 women nominated from Nexstar’s 114 markets across the country. The married mother of three works as an area lead for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. She also founded the non-profit organization, Bag Lady Outreach in 2019. Through that organization, Archana distributes thousands of handbags filled with personal care items to the homeless and others who are struggling to fulfill basic needs.
As the winner of Nexstar’s ‘Remarkable Women’ initiative, Nexstar donated $5000 dollars in prize money to the charity of her choice. Prize money that Liggins put right back into her Bag Lady Outreach program with the goal of distributing 10,000 bags of necessities across the country the following year.
“Because I was the Remarkable Woman of the Nation, I decided I wanted to bless the nation,” Liggins said.
And did she ever. This summer Liggins sent 43 “healthy hygiene blessing bags” to states across the country.
Her expanded outreach also meant moving shop from the family’s garage to two large storage units.
“As much as I give away, it comes back tenfold,” she said. “As soon as I give away 2150-plus bags, and then here comes more purse donations, soap donations…”
Liggins is continuing to pack all those personal necessities into bags, only this time for women who are incarcerated in Illinois.
Alexis Mansfield, of the Women’s Justice Institute, has been partnering with Liggins for the outreach.
“When we asked her if she could do 1,600 gift bags for Christmas for the women in IDOC, she said ‘Sure!’ and jumped right at it,” she said. “I feel like there’s no challenge she is not willing to undertake and devour.”
Liggins has some long hours ahead this month to get the blessing bags ready to go by Christmas but says there’s nothing she’d rather do than help.
“I just did this because it was something I wanted to do,” she said. “And I always tell people to go ahead and do it afraid. Go ahead even if you don’t know what’s going to happen”.
Liggins showed us all the power of one individual’s will to give back and make a difference. And now, it’s your turn to nominate a woman who has been a ‘game changer’ in your community. The entry period begins today and runs for the next two weeks.