It was a covert mission of the wine fairy kind. And Mariah Kellison was up for the challenge.
“To be honest, I felt like a thief in broad daylight dropping a basket off and running away,” says Kellison, a Westminster resident. “But it was so much fun.”
In a movement born of the pandemic and the resulting quarantine, women are reaching out to one another with acts of kindness and support. They call themselves wine fairies. What they do is called dusting and involves leaving a bottle of wine as well as other goodies on someone’s doorstep as an act of goodwill. They deliver the package, ring the doorbell, and run before being discovered—much like an adult version of ding dong dash. They have nicknames like “Drinker Bell” and often wear fairy wings while making their deliveries. Sometimes they know the individual they are dusting, but many times they do not.
Regardless, it is much appreciated. “We’re taking on a lot as women right now,” says Tamara Holt, who created the Baltimore Wine and Gift Fairy Facebook group. “We’re having to homeschool and work from home. Then you go to the front door and see a small package and it brightens your whole day.”
There are wine fairy Facebook groups all across the state and beyond and membership has taken off. “I had a thousand people join in a few days,” says Mandy Corns, who started the Carroll County Wine Fairy Facebook page. Today, it has nearly 4,000 members.
Those who join Facebook groups can request to be dusted and provide their address or ask to be contacted by private messenger and supply their address that way. Members may also include a wish list with items they prefer, such as particular wines. They all describe being a wine fairy as a joyful distraction.
“Emotionally so many people are out of sorts right now,” says Abbey Hauf, who created the Quarantine Wine Fairies Facebook group for the Lutherville and Northern Baltimore County area. “This was just a great outlet to do something nice for someone else.”
Corns agrees. “When you get dusted, it’s like someone thought about you,” she says. “It’s very heartwarming.”
And that joyful distraction is as much about the giving as the getting. Something that is all the more significant in today’s current chaotic and confusing world.
“You may not be feeling so well because of what is happening around you,” explains Brian Meier, a professor of psychology at Gettysburg College who has done research on pro-social behavior. “And, you know that helping others makes other people feel good, but you also know that it is going to make you feel good. Even if you are doing it anonymously and don’t even know who the other person, you feel like you’ve done something to help another human being. You can imagine that person opening the bottle and smiling and enjoying that wine or whatever the treat may be. That feeling stays with you for a while.”
Making it addictive in the best of ways.
A dusting awaits
“People get up at 5, 6 a.m. in the morning and post, ‘Good morning. I can’t wait to get up and go dusting,’” Holt says.
“Groups like this are hugely important,” Kellison agrees. “Before this group, my Facebook feed was being consumed by people who are angry, arguing, sharing dark and sad things. Everyone has been on edge, unsure of their futures, just plain scared. Then it was like there was this quirky fun little group. It started with a share here, a ‘who likes unicorns and wants this basket’ there. Now my social media has an upbeat feel to it.”
So strong is that pull of positivity and being able to connect through kindness that some people are determined to overcome obstacles to do so. Holt has a friend who is immobile with various health issues. “She reached out to me and said, ‘I want to dust some ladies, but I can’t get out,” she says. “’Are you able to come pick up the money and grab some items and do some dustings?’”
Holt did not hesitate. “I said, sure, absolutely,” she says. “I put together 10 bags and put her name on them and delivered them.”
Those who have been dusted are not only highly encouraged to pay it forward but are also encouraged to post online in their various groups that they have been dusted, complete with a pic of the goodies. Besides or instead of wine, goodies can include tea and coffee, snacks, bath bombs, candles and other items. Sometimes there are themes. One PMS-themed basket included tampons, chocolate and ibuprofen.
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But pics of goodies are not the only posts. Many of the groups have become a place to come together, even among women who may have never met each other in person. Posts include mentions of the anniversary of a child’s suicide, the diagnosis of a serious disease, the emotional and physical weariness of those working in the healthcare field during the pandemic. The responses to these posts are many and compassionate.
“We are developing new relationships and learning things about each other,” Holt says.
As one member of her group recently posted, “We are creating a sisterhood.”
And the fairies will come to the rescue if needed. The Quarantine Wine Fairies had a member who got engaged during the pandemic. A big celebration and face-to-face interaction was out of the question for her and her significant other. But, in sharing her good news with her fellow wine fairies, “she got dusted to help her celebrate,” Hauf says.
So deep have the bonds become that Hauf, for one, is hoping to eventually plan an in-person get together at a park, complete with social distancing if still needed.
“We can meet each other and drink wine together,” she says.
Wine fairies began with the idea of a small gesture of kindness, a bottle of wine left at someone’s doorstep. But in a matter of months, it has come to mean so much more to its participants.
Recently, the Carroll County Wine Fairy group lost a member to cancer. “The day before she passed, she was dusted,” says Corns. “A family member reached out to me and told me that it had just made her day so bright right before she passed.”
Corns then decided to start a donation basket for her family. “I wanted to leave a goody basket from the Carroll County Wine Fairies with cash and gift cards as well as food,” she says, and adds, “The response was amazing.”
Of course, it was. These are the wine fairies, after all, or as Holt likes to say, “Our fairy family.”
This story originally appeared on Baltimore Style.com.