Women around the Schenectady area have been sprinkling a bit of pixie dust - and a lot of wine - in the Electric City over the last few months.
The Schenectady Wine Fairies, a Facebook group with more than three thousand members, facilitates random acts of kindness and gift drop-offs for both adults and kids. Adults give and receive gift baskets of wine, candy and other goodies, while kids are gifted toys and snacks.
“Suffering from depression and the coronavirus pandemic, I was looking for ways to bring our community together in such a trying time so I founded the Schenectady Wine Fairies,” said Jen Hill.
The Rotterdam resident created the group in March, inspired by a similar group from the Syracuse area called the Corona Fairies. “Wine fairy” groups have been popping up around the country since the pandemic began impacting the United States. There are Facebook groups in Boston, Rochester and across states like North Carolina and Minnesota. Each has its own system and nickname, though the purpose is much the same: surprising others with gifts at a time when they may need it the most.
Within a week of starting the Schenectady Wine Fairies group, more than 2,000 people became members, said Hill.
The Facebook group is private and only women over the age of 21 can join. Once people are accepted to the group, they can add their names to the list of people looking to be either “wined” or “juiced,” and add a list of preferences. When someone has been “wined,” they pay it forward and give away gift baskets to others in the group. The gifts are usually left on others' doorstep to maintain social distancing.
“I had an extra basket and I ended up giving it to the neighbor! She told me her day wasn’t that good and I made her day. That is what this whole thing is about. Making someone feel better,” posted one member of the Schenectady Wine Fairies group.
While the group began with gifting wine, it’s grown well beyond that, with people baking for one another, giving gift baskets to graduating seniors from high schools around Schenectady County, and baskets of toys to local children.
“It’s a pay-it-forward group and has brought so much fun,” Hill said.
The group has also become a place for people to check in with one another. Some share financial hardships and family struggles brought on by COVID-19. Members frequently ask about how others are doing.
“Everybody checks [in] on everybody,” Hill said.
Some members also share victories, like their children graduating or their triumphs over long-term health issues. One member recently posted “Today is the day . . . my last chemo! I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it.” More than 200 people responded with congratulations and encouragement.
“I don’t know who [fairied] me but thank you whoever wined me! I really needed this. I just got out [of] the hospital this morning due to health issues! You made my day!” posted another group member.
Others have even reconnected with long lost friends.
“A lot of people have reunited. People that haven’t seen each other since high school, things like that,” Hill said.
She’s surprised that it’s grown as much as it has but says it’s all about uplifting other people.
As one group member posted: “What a blessing to be able to pay it forward. Many thanks for allowing me to be a part of something so beautiful during these troublesome times.”