The extraordinary work of Ordinary Women

It’s pretty unusual for a newspaper to write about people without identifying them, but that’s what the Star Tribune did today, profiling a group of women helping out people having a tough go at life.

“12 Ordinary Women” started in Tennessee and the idea has now migrated to Minnesota, where two anonymous groups have sprouted, the Star Tribune says.

One ordinary woman from a Twin Cities western suburb started her group in March 2014 after meeting the founder in Tennessee. The group meets once a month to nominate recipients for a surprise token of optimism purchased with their “ordinary woman tax.”

Nominees are people the group recognizes as being in need. Although the recipients often are people that someone in the group knows, they go to great lengths to keep the beneficiary from figuring out the connection.

“We make sure there’d be no way they can connect the dots right back to our group … I cannot lie to save my life and so it’s always fun to come up with ways to help people without them knowing anything about it,” the Minnesota founder said.

The gifts vary by need. There have been provisions of comfort and rest for a cancer victim, a new computer for a high school graduate and a photo shoot for a dying mother who wouldn’t see her children into adulthood.

Other times, a dozen handwritten letters have fit the bill.

“We have found that it’s not so much the gift — whether it’s a financial gift or a care basket or whatever it may be — that’s not really what it’s all about,” the founder said.

The women deliver gift baskets to people and families having a tough time. Inside, usually, are gift cards.

After two women showed up at Liz Sosin’s doorstep, she spent the next couple of weeks trying to track down their origin. “Twelve ordinary women?” she’d ask to random people, to their confusion.

“I didn’t bust anybody, and if I did, they covered it really well,” she said.

Sosin was out one day when her husband, Phillip, answered the door of their Minnetonka home to find two strangers holding a package. It was a rarity that he was at home that day in April. He had spent much of the previous few months in the hospital because of a series of colon surgeries.

Inside the package were Twins tickets for the Sosins and their two children, as well as gift cards to Potbelly and Caribou Coffee.

“It happened on a day when you try to keep your chin up and march one foot in front of the other,” Liz Sosin recalled. “But some days it’s just bad. You’re tired. You’re losing faith a little bit.”

Need a pick-me-up today? Just spend it reading the 12 Ordinary Women blog.