A little joy goes a long way nowadays, and more than 6,000 ladies are looking to spread it in the Facebook group Sisterhood of the Traveling Spirits New Hanover/Pender/Brunswick Counties. Close friends Sarah Lee, 39, and Alyssa Starr, 43, founded the group in early May, after Starr had been part of a similar group in Maryland. Hundreds of similar sisterhoods are popping up on Facebook, from Florida to Kansas, as well.
“I cannot take full credit for the idea,” says Starr. “I only started the local group. The ladies involved are what make it so extraordinary.”
It only took a few days for the local chapter to catch on. With over 1,000 requests to join the group daily and approximately 30 posts an hour, the group has grown rapidly—so much so Starr reached out to Lee for help managing it. “She ended up being thrown into the position of full-time admin to keep up with rising demand,” Starr says.
Much like the book and film series from which it takes its name, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” Sisterhood of the Traveling Spirits aims to connect women in communities through positive, compassionate support. Members anonymously leave gift baskets on random doorsteps (known as “dusting”) or merely offer positive vibes and prayers for shared hardships.
So how does one join the sisterhood? Members must be female and at least 21 (alcohol often shows up in gift baskets). They also must live in New Hanover, Brunswick or Pender counties. Once approved, group members put together “dusting baskets” featuring items such as candy, koozies, candles, puzzles, knick-knacks, plants, skin-care items, flowers, booze and more. When the gifts are ready, members can post to the group discussion asking for addresses of ladies in need of uplifting.
“I thought it was an amazing opportunity to spread love and kindness back and forth to those needing a pick-me-up during these difficult times,” says Brunswick County resident and avid duster Alyssa Nicole. “This group brings me joy because I see so many amazing women wanting to spread happiness when so much sadness and hatred is going on in the world.”
Some women are even going above and beyond by creating personalized baskets, with themes like barbecue, caretaking and even gardening. Some ladies have adopted full-on businesses to dust, especially in the healthcare industry, and have dropped off numerous gift baskets at local practices. Another popular basket among dusters is what some are calling a “quarantine kit,” filled with cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer—both essential items during the ongoing pandemic.
Some folks choose to remain anonymous, while others sign their names on the cards accompanying the baskets. But most of the fun is the dusting itself, when members deliver baskets to someone’s home. The official name is “fairy dusting,” and some members even get into character by wearing costumes and wings. Gifts are left a la TikTok’s famous “Ding Dong Ditch”—ringing someone’s doorbell and running away—and fairies often post videos and pictures on the Facebook feed so folks can share in on the fun.
Morgan Kotnik, a 29-year-old New Hanover County duster, has put together a crew to join her on dusting rounds. “We’ve decided to call ourselves ‘The Themed Dusters’ because every dusting we do has a certain aesthetic: Harry Potter (each basket represented a Hogwarts house), Marvel Avengers, Disney Princess,” she says. “We all wear fairy wings when we deliver our goodies. The ding-dong-ditch technique is our go-to and part of the thrill is not getting caught!”
Kotnik joined in May after a friend mentioned the group. She likes giving more than receiving, and prefers including homemade items in her basket for a more personal touch.
Though gifts are a large part of creating camaraderie, the group isn’t only about giving tangible items. Posts can be found merely asking for good vibes and prayers, as women in the group undergo surgery, endure the loss of a loved one, or care for a parent or sick child.
“The whole purpose of this group is empowering women during hard times,” Starr says. “During COVID, we are all a hot mess and need our own outlet. Something for just us. This is a place to vent, cry, spread love, laugh [and] joke, but most of all just have fun. It’s beyond rewarding to see so many ladies creating bonds that will last a lifetime with people they never would’ve met otherwise.”
While the group is restricted to only women, husbands and children sometimes participate in the actual dusting, though they can’t receive gifts (however, similar Facebook groups have emerged for the hubbies and kids to get a chance to join in on the fun).
Lee and Starr have already made plans for the group after the pandemic ends, but their ideas remain under wraps as to not spoil the fun. For now, they encourage dusters to maintain proper social distancing and thoroughly wash their hands with warm water and soap before and after dusting.
For more information on how to get involved, visit: facebook.com/groups/863252577489729.