Pink is Shaun Vrana’s favorite color.
So imagine Vrana’s surprise after opening her front door and finding a basket full of pink items on her front porch that included pink colored wine bottles, pink bubblegum, a pink balloon, a pink pen and even a pink flamingo.
“The day I received this basket, I was having a really bad day,” said Vrana, who works as a specialty technician in the rehabilitation department at Salina Regional Health Center. “This (basket) gave me a really nice lift because I wasn’t expecting it.”
Although she wasn’t expecting any gifts on that particular day, Vrana knew she might receive a basket at some point because a couple of weeks earlier she had joined a Facebook group called “Wine & Dash With Friends — Salina, KS Area.”
The private group, started by a pair of Salina nurses, encourages its new members to create a biographical profile of themselves and describe their favorite beverages, whether it be wine, beer or a soft drink.
Other members are encouraged to read these profiles and choose someone in the Salina area to receive a basket or gift bag filled not only with various beverages but balloons, candy, greeting cards and whatever else they can think of to help brighten that person’s day.
After the gift basket or bag is made, the enthusiastic volunteers deliver the baskets of goodies to their chosen recipient’s front porch, ring the doorbell (or knock) and then scurry away to hopefully watch from afar when the door is opened and the discovery is made.
Vrana said she had helped create and deliver three baskets to three strangers before receiving a basket of her own.
“It feels really good to give, but getting to be on the receiving end is a lot of fun too,” she said.
Creating good feelings
Making people feel good, both on the giving and receiving end, was the purpose of creating “Wine & Dash,” said Danice Hoffman, co-founder of the Facebook group with fellow Salina Regional Health Center nurse Cierra Rogers.
Creating good feelings and giving people a sense of purpose through helping others seemed especially important during this time of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cierra and I were talking about the whole COVID pandemic and how down everyone seemed to be getting,” Hoffman said. “People are so tired of being cooped up, and I see a lot of depression at the hospital. Being able to get out to give to make someone else happy can help get you out of a depression.”
Hoffman created the Salina-based Facebook group on May 15, inspired by a similar group in New York City. In just two-and-a-half weeks, the membership count is nearly 2,900.
To help ensure confidentiality, Hoffman said she and Rogers decided to create a private, invitation-only group.
“No one that’s not in the group can see your address,” she said. “And if you’re not comfortable posting your address, you can personal message us.”
After being accepted for membership in the group, new members are encouraged to write a personal profile that might include likes and dislikes, family information and/or photos, and a description of their favorite wine, beer or soft drink.
“It’s called ‘Wine & Dash,’ but it can be ‘Beer & Dash’ or ‘Pepsi & Dash’ or whatever you want it to be,” Hoffman said.
However, since alcohol can be involved, Hoffman said all members must be 21 years of age and older and are asked to provide a photo ID before any alcoholic item can be delivered to them.
“We look at their Facebook profiles and ID people that look 30 and under,” Hoffman said. “We have people send a copy of their ID to our administrator through (Facebook) Messenger before they’re accepted into the group.”
Hoffman said members are encouraged to read through various profiles and create a basket or bag for anyone of their choice, even if it’s a perfect stranger.
“It’s sometimes more fun that way,” she said.
Detail in baskets
Besides beverages, basket or bag items have included candy, chocolates, sports-related items, cute pictures and inspiring greeting cards. Hoffman said one woman even crocheted holders for small “shot” bottles.
“I’m amazed at the detail some people put into the baskets,” Hoffman said. “The more detail you put into it, the better, even if you don’t know the people you’re delivering to. If there’s specific things they like on their bio, you try to include that too.”
Members delivering baskets or bags can choose to include their names or remain anonymous, Hoffman said. Those receiving gifts also are encouraged to use hand sanitizer to wipe items down before using them as a precaution against possible COVID-19 infection.
In addition, an ongoing list is kept by the site administrator of those who have yet to receive a delivery so all members will have a chance to be “wined” in the future.
So far, Hoffman said, the reaction to giving and receiving these goodie baskets has been overwhelming and touching.
“There’s a lot of social interaction going on and messaging going back and forth,” she said. “Everyone’s getting to know each other, commenting on each other’s profiles and posing questions.”
Bolstering the economy
Although “Wine & Dash” was created in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hoffman plans to continue the group through Halloween, Christmas and beyond.
“At least through the next year or so while we’re recovering from the pandemic,” she said. “Buying these gifts for people is also helping to bolster our economy. I myself have done 26 baskets in two weeks.”
Several surrounding communities also have been inspired to start their own “Wine & Dash” groups, and there now are groups in Lindsborg, McPherson, Lincoln, Ellsworth and Minneapolis, all “encouraging generosity” during a time of great uncertainty, Hoffman said.
Vrana said the Salina “Wine & Dash” group has brought together a wide range of people for a common cause, and in just a short time has created a sense of giving and positivity in the community.
“Salina is a great community because no matter what happens to us, we always pull together,” she said.