Group warms hearts with anonymous gifts

Wine & Dash program has become a local phenomenon that lifts spirits during pandemic.

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June 4, 2020 - 9:47 AM

Kyleigh Hamlin “dashes” an unsuspecting neighbor, leaving a surprise basket of gifts on their porch. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

When Kyleigh Hamlin began the “Wine & Dash” program in Iola and surrounding areas little did she know that it would soon become a local phenomenon.

Wine and Dash involves a kind of gift-giving sisterhood, where women make anonymous surprise deliveries to others in the group, especially those going through a tough time. Hamlin began the exercise to help lift spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, special attention has been paid to those who are living alone and don’t know many other people, those who’ve lost pregnancies or gotten divorces, and those who’ve escaped abusive relationships.

Hence the gesture of giving a basket, of “dashing,” is often about taking a personal and novel approach to healing trauma.

When the Register accompanied Hamlin on a dash, the basket was for a woman who’d been battling cancer, where her daughter-in-law wanted to do something special for her while she was at the hospital receiving treatment.

The baskets contain all manner of items, including candy, flowers, drinks, candles, coloring books, colored pencils, flower bulbs, drinkware, face masks, antiques, chapstick, chocolates and more.

Hamilin said she wanted to do something good for people given “all the bad going on in the world,” and “to put smiles on faces.”

“It’s more about giving than it is receiving,” she emphasized.

THOUGH the group, coordinated online through Facebook, started off small, Hamlin said it ballooned “from 100 people to 600 people in less than a week,” which now means devoting significant time to the project.

“I’m amazed at the actual participation there’s been,” Hamlin said. “The more, the merrier, though.”

In order to get involved, one can simply go to the “Wine & Dash — Iola/Humboldt Area” Facebook page, and submit a request to join.

(Participants are from towns across a pretty significant radius, including Yates Center, Neosho Falls, Moran, Iola, Humboldt and more.)

Online, you specify if you’d like to participate in “dashing” others, and as some baskets contain alcohol, you’ll need to verify that you’re 21 years old.

Hamilin also added, though it’s not required, “we would like everybody to dash at least one person.”

This is partly because, as she explained, “I want everybody to feel loved and to get something.”

There is also a similar group for kids called “Splash & Dash Kids Edition — Iola & Surrounding Areas.”

“My kids and I are actually gonna do [some deliveries] this week,” Hamlin said.

HAMLIN said she got the idea from someone in her hometown, Fort Scott, who was engaged in a similar project.

After consulting with others, everyone said “Do it here!” Pretty soon, “it just blew up.”

This meant recruiting some friends to help, including Nicole Joy, Sofia Venter, Melissa Cox and Aniston Craig, all from Iola.

Hamlin is an office manager at Iola High School, who while schools were shuttered, built study packets for students, about 60 every two weeks.

She has called rural Humboldt home for the past six years. 

Her husband Jake attended school in both Humboldt and Moran, and is now a mechanic for the Union-Pacific Railroad. 

Together they have three kids, Taetyn, 2, Graesyn, 6, and Madison, 8.

AS FOR what Hamlin has learned from doing Wine & Dash, she mentioned how there are “still good people in the world, even with all of the ugly happening.”

She also reported being deeply moved emotionally from the entire process.

“I cried a couple times when seeing how it’s affected people positively,” she said.

“I’m just overwhelmed.”

Indeed, Hamlin herself knows what it’s like to go through a difficult experience and to have others do something kind to ease the pain.

Her own mother died seven years ago, and she also lost a pregnancy as well.

When it comes to helping others, then, “my inspiration is my mom,” she said.

“She would give anything to anyone,” including people she didn’t know.

It’s an expression of love that Hamlin now replicates on every delivery she makes.

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