A complete stranger dropping off a gift basket of wine, snacks and other treats on one’s doorstep might have seemed peculiar only a few months ago, but in the days of the pandemic, it’s the new normal for some women.
The concept of “wine fairies” has swept communities across the country. It often starts in Facebook groups, where women share their addresses and stories, and comes to fruition with a “dusting” of goodies and plenty of photos to follow. And, of course, a fairy’s mission is to give the recipient a smile, but not get caught.
“It’s the best part, running up to the door, deciding whether you want to knock or not — you don’t want to get caught — and then you run to the car,” said Breanna Cruz, 24, of Glen Cove. “I’ve run to the car so many times trying not to get caught.”
Cruz, a teaching assistant at a local day care center, and her mother, Laura Cruz, also of Glen Cove, a medical biller and receptionist for a doctor’s office, noticed that in a Long Island-wide wine fairy Facebook group, there were few North Shore residents, because of their distance from other communities. So, in the interest of bringing the fun to the North Shore, they started their own Facebook group in May called “Wine Fairies of Glen Cove, Glen Head, Sea Cliff, GWL and Locust Valley.”
Since then, they have not only gone on many dusting trips, but have also received at least 30 dustings, sometimes several a day. All dustings are purchased by the women making the deliveries.
“It’s been a blessing, especially during this pandemic,” Laura Cruz said as she and her daughter prepared for a dusting last weekend. “It grew very, very fast. People we know, people we don’t know, people that we know of, they just kept adding their friends.”
As women on the North Shore networked, the group grew to over 1,000 members, and now Breanna Cruz said she sees ladies dusting in her neighborhood all the time. “We’ve received personalized wine glasses,” she said. “We’ve gotten to try a bunch of different wines that we haven’t tried before.”
Group members bring new wines to front doorsteps, start new friendships, renew old ones and bond over the loss of loved ones. Their dustings have also brought many smiles during a time when it’s been hard to find things to smile about. “It’s not just wine,” Breanna Cruz said simply.
Pam Giorgi, of Glen Cove, who has tested patients for Covid-19 through the pandemic, said that the group elicited positive emotions in herself, her coworkers and her brother, James Pascucci, who has Down syndrome and is the only male “fairy” in the group.
“I joined it at the beginning of the pandemic, and because I was working on the front lines, I said, ‘I’m watching,’” Giorgi recalled. “And it was cool, because the things these women were doing — I actually showed my co-workers some of these elaborate things, and it helped a lot of us get through 12 weeks.”
She added, “This job was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, and I’m a pretty tough cookie.”
For a while, Giorgi did not list her address in the group because of her long hours, but eventually she changed her mind, and even got her brother involved. “I believe I dusted first just because someone made me smile, and a few days later when I went dusting, I took James,” she said. “We went for a walk around the block and I posted a picture of him on his bicycle, and the fairies went crazy, and they were like. ‘Oh I want to dust him!’ It’s just so positive.”
Giorgi said that other members often call her “James’s paparazzi” when she posts photos of him preparing and making deliveries, adding that he has been dusted about 25 times since he’s gotten involved.
“He said he loves this group — ‘I love the girls, I love that they smile,’” she said. “But what he doesn’t like is that they’re not allowed to hug him. We keep social distancing as much as possible.”
Giorgi added that many of the women in the group came together on Father’s Day to dust those that had recently lost their fathers. “I thought I was going to be the only one that would dust a few women who had recently mentioned that they lost their dad,” she said, “and next thing I know, because I had posted that I lost my dad last year, they dusted me, and they’re dusting each other . . . they’re the most phenomenal group of people.”
Jessica Kaiser Baker, a high school guidance counselor who lives in Bayville, said that the group has helped her get through a difficult time, as she balances her role as an essential worker and the loss of her father to Covid-19.
“My dad had passed away on May 1, and someone posted that they were looking to dust people that were helpers and first responders, and then I jumped on and I said ‘Please, anybody that works at Winthrop, I would be happy to dust because they were so great to my dad,’” Kaiser Baker recounted. “And then people dusted me back and then I got my kids involved. It was something for us, in a really dark time, that we could do together to bring joy to others.”
She said that she and her boyfriend, Keith Hickey, made boxes out of wooden pallets for the treats they left, which recipients ultimately used for planting and storage.
“Not that we’re having dinner at each other’s houses, but I made a really strong support network in a short period of time, and [Giorgi] brought me a basket of things that had very specific things about your first year without your dad,” Kaiser Baker said. “Even my mom, who was completely devastated, said ‘How is there total strangers just being so nice and supportive?’ This is a really, really nice thing.”