The circumstances of life are sometimes best met with an alcoholic beverage.
This statement could be an unofficial motto of the Pine Belt Booze Fairies, a Facebook group that is promoting sisterhood and combating loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering gift baskets of snacks and such beverages to ladies throughout the area.
Jessica Ingram is the founder of the group, which has more than 6,300 active members. She lives in Hattiesburg with her husband, Randy, and their four children.
“I modeled the group after a nationwide group that one of my friends added me to,” said Ingram. “I was going through and looking at that group, and it had people from all over the United States, but primarily from northern states. I told my husband about it, and we researched it a little ... and we didn’t find a group like it that was local. I sat down and kind of watched how they ran the group and then made one for the Pine Belt area.”
The group was created in May, and it did not take long for it to grow in size and scope.
“It’s spread out through like Seminary to Wiggins, from Lumberton to Oak Grove,” she said. “I mean, it’s everywhere.”
Ingram said the mission of the group is simple.
“We want to just bring happiness to women during quarantine,” she said. “We make a basket, and we deliver it to a specific woman ... and that process is called ‘boozing.’ In the group, there’s a section where everyone shares what they like ... like candy or other little odd and end things. It’s a private group, and there’s no men allowed, so ladies are comfortable and able to just drop their address. Someone then can get the address and drop off a little happy ... just something to brighten somebody’s day.”
The group members are building friendships through the individual deliveries, said Ingram.
“Members build friendships ... people are becoming friends through the group all of the time,” she said. “The deliveries are great little pick-me-ups, but they’re also conversation starters and relationship builders.”
Ingram said there are three levels of participation in the group.
“There’s the booze baskets that have candy and chips and stuff the particular person likes,” she said. “Then, the second level ... that’s what we called ‘iced,’ and that’s where a person goes to a store, gets a cold drink and takes it to someone’s house to meet them. The lady can then drink it on the spot, just chug it down real quick, or save it for later, but it’s a way for two people to meet and get to know each other.”
The third level is called “drive-by shots,” said Ingram.
“Those are the little bitty shot glasses or the single shots that you can get from the store for like ... $2, tops, I think,” she said. “You put a couple of those in there, in a little gift basket, and distribute them that way.”
Another option in the group is called “Snacked,” and it caters to children. Group members share what their kids like – from Ninja Turtles toys to snack options – and group members drop off a separate gift basket for the child during the “boozing” process.
“That way, kids can share in the happiness ... without being part of the booze,” she said.
Membership in the group is free, but the group does have a philanthropic element, according to Ingram.
“We do raise funds for worthy causes,” she said. “There was a lady in Hattiesburg, and her son had been shot and killed. We put together a collection and were able to get her a $200 gift card, some flowers and a beauty basket with at-home spa stuff. We did that, and it was such a success ... it was too much for the one group to handle. So, we created another group for the fundraising elements.”
The second group is called Pine Belt Heart & Soul Sisters, and Ingram said that group is currently fundraising for local animal shelters and collecting school supplies.
“That group ... we have several projects we’re working on,” she said. “We’ve got the back-to-school fundraiser. There’s several locations throughout Petal and Hattiesburg, and I think one in Oak Grove, where people can drop off school supply items. Bring it in, drop it off. Later on, we’re going to fill backpacks and deliver them to schools for families who are struggling during the pandemic.”
The Heart and Soul Sisters group is also organizing an Arts, Crafts and Small Business Expo – which will benefit the Hub City Humane Society – on Sept. 19 at Hinton Park in Petal.
“All of these fundraising efforts were born out of the Booze Fairies group, and I think that’s wonderful,” said Ingram. “We brainstorm ideas to help the community.”
Ingram has been assisted in building the group by several group administrators and moderators, including Jessie Cardona, Melissa McDaniel, Ashley Hughes, Heather Barnes and Dana Riels. The group’s logo was designed by Trisha Hughes.
“These ladies, the administrators ... they approve posts and delete posts if necessary,” she said. “They’re instrumental to our continued success.”
Ingram said the group has been a great “escape” from the trials of the recent pandemic.
“I think ... just the happiness and uplifting element ... makes the group worth it,” she said. “New friendships can be started, and people can just get out of the house for a little bit. You get to meet new people. It’s been an incredible experience.”
To join the Booze Fairies group, visit facebook.com/groups/3240767159301572/ or search “Pine Belt Booze Fairies.”
To join the Heart & Soul Sisters group, visit www.facebook.com/groups/285158382731838/ or search “Pine Belt Heart & Soul Sisters.”