May 2020


Photo courtesy of Amy Long.

While the world continues to react to the COVID-19 crisis, a band of big-hearted, bag-toting ladies in Powhatan County are creating a wave of positivity with a modern version of adult ding-dong ditch.

It’s the familiar childhood prank that involves ringing someone’s doorbell and then running away before the unsuspecting homeowner can spot you – only with a twist.

Jessica Wilkes, creator of Powhatan Sisterhood of the Traveling Spirits & Treats Facebook group.

Now, grown-up ladies (or their sneaky children), known as “fairies,” are anonymously dropping bags of love all over Powhatan County and reliving the heart-pounding excitement of days gone by.

Or, as it’s fondly called, “dusting.”

Southside Electric Cooperative member McKenzie Coley even recruited a 7-year-old partner in crime, her son, to go along with her bag-dropping, doorbell-ringing shenanigans. “He tells me to ‘time him’ and I get to drive the get-away car,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Pamela Weeks.

The inspiration for this new way of spreading kindness comes from the Powhatan group, called Powhatan Sisterhood of the Traveling Spirits and Treats. Created by Jessica Wilkes mere weeks ago, it has burgeoned to more than 1,200 members, with a large portion of members being in areas served by SEC. “I had seen the idea elsewhere, but not around here. I wanted to bring light and love to the area,” she says.

Wilkes attributes its immense popularity to a hunger for positivity. In fact, she says that more than 600 people are waiting to get into the group.

Photo courtesy of Linda Powell.

“It brings us all together as a community during a time when we have to be apart,” explains SEC member Stephanie Hodges, who recently joined the private Facebook group.

Here’s how it works: The doorbell rings and then the homeowner discovers a bag of random goodies — everything from lotion and nail polish to handcrafted items and chocolate — on the porch. There are no rules as to how much the giver has to give; it’s simply a matter of giving from the heart. But one thing stays fairly consistent: The giver of the bag is completely anonymous.

The rush of joy keeps the kindness spreading like wildfire. As a nurse during the pandemic, SEC member Ashley Bardon says she’s seen more bad than good lately. “So when I received my first ‘dusting’ on my porch, I was overwhelmed,” she says.

What did Bardon do? On her next day off, she enlisted the help of her 7-year-old son and headed out to “spread some fairy dust” of her own. “My son now asks how we can help others and spread love with more dust!”

The process isn’t random. Upon joining, members fill out a form that provides other group members with their address and likes. By following a map with color-coordinated markers, the group’s hardworking admins (Wilkes along with Cris Godfrey, MaryMay Short and Callie Van Horn) keep the whole operation running smoothly and efficiently. The goal is to have as many members of the group dusted by other members. Godfrey says, “It’s about giving and support that we so desperately need right now. Not only because of the quarantine, but also because the world needs more love right now.”

Photo courtesy of Ruth Woodfin.

Says SEC member Denise Eyles, “What makes it so nice is that everyone is doing it for the right reason: to lift the spirits of others and come together as a sisterhood in our small rural county.”

Some group members are taking it a step further and having more fun with the experience. SEC member Linda Powell donned a tutu and fairy wings on her last “dusting spree” throughout Powhatan County. “For me, it’s all about seeing what a difference it made in someone’s life and putting a smile on their face. I get so much joy from dusting these terrific ladies,” she explains.

To join the Powhatan Sisterhood of the Traveling Spirits and Treats Facebook group, you need to be a resident of Powhatan County. But there’s nothing stopping those outside of Powhatan County from starting their own “dusting” groups. When it comes to spreading kindness … the more, the merrier.

Photo courtesy of Karen Conner.

SEC member Amy Long says, “Complete strangers are lifting each other up and spreading sunshine. It has spread a lot of hope and happiness to the ladies around here. I know that my friends from other counties are jealous of what we have going on here in Powhatan with this adventure!”

During difficult times is when goodness truly prevails. One of the group’s members, Erin Murphy, says, “This will always be remembered as a time when Powhatan took lemons and made lemonade.”

After all, that’s what community is all about.