Sisters are not always by blood

By Jessica Brown |@BrownJessicaJ, Daily Egyptian

A little-known southern Illinois women’s group is no longer a secret.

The Secret Sisters Society of Southern Illinois, an organization that embraces women’s versatile personalities, is gaining traction.

The group–created in 2013 by Kristi Hoak, 33, and Lindsay Stockhecke, 28–connects women from various walks of life who may not have otherwise met.

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Stockhecke, a mother of two with a child on the way, said her and Hoak, a stay-at-home mother of four, created the group after noticing there were not many options for women with a variety of interests to converge.

“I don’t think it’s overly diverse right now,” 39-year-old member Melissa Kay said of the group, which is made of mostly white, 30-year-old women. “But I think they would welcome all and any diversity.”

Chelsea Coursey, director of development for the College of Science, said she would like to see the group diversify.

“I would love to see a chapter start with primarily college students because I think it could be a great resource to them, and vice versa,” said Coursey, a mother of one.

There are four chapters split into 20 to 50 women, and an additional two chapters are working on recruitment.

Each chapter meets about twice a month for events such as workshops and parties.

To join a chapter, women must pay a $30 nonrefundable fee to cover a six-month membership.

“All fees go towards the group,” Stockhecke said. “It covers features in their membership.”

Membership includes a welcome gift, contests with prizes and birthday gifts.

The fee does not cover the monthly gift exchange, in which members give a present to another but do not reveal their identity. Gifts range in price from $10 to $30.

“You think of all the money you spend… I could probably spend that in magazine subscriptions per year,” said Kay, a stay-at-home mother of two. “Having to pay $30 to $60 a year… that’s not an exorbitant amount.”

Fees are not the only requirement in Secret Sisters, as the group has terms and conditions in order to join, which includes participation in events.

“Because you’re giving and receiving, if you don’t participate it’s not fair to the sisters,” Stockhecke said. “If everyone’s participating, everyone’s getting the most out of it.”

However, Stockhecke said not all members can afford to give gifts every round. Participants can sponsor other sisters in these instances.

Sponsoring each other within the group is not the only charity work the women have done.

They’ve fundraised for charities in the past, collecting clothing for the Women’s Center, and hope to become more involved with charity work in the future, Stockhecke said.

Coursey, 32, said the sense of camaraderie the women share plays a huge role in the group.

“I’m very glad I joined a year ago,” Coursey said. “The group provides a great method for meeting women in the Carbondale area.”

All four chapters are in southern Illinois, but Stockhecke said she would love to start more in other areas.

Women interested in Secret Sisters can go to the group’s website, secretsistersociety.com.

Jessica Brown can be reached at [email protected]

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