05 Nov 2023 Empowering women through sisterhood at Morrilton Women’s Group
By Mary Eggart
Women supporting women. This is the goal and mantra of Southern Social, a women’s group in Morrilton that is dedicated to lifting, educating and empowering women. As the organizers of the group, Stacy Drilling and Misty Willbanks are no strangers to supporting each other and their goals as local entrepreneurs. Together, they have created a mobile bar business called the Southern Sippery and opened Orenwood Hall, an event space in Morrilton that is multi-functional, where Southern Social members and guests gather each month. The group offers women’s topics monthly and brings in speakers and activities related to that topic. Members pay monthly dues for access to all events; likewise, they receive a discounted fee for using the rental space, Orenwood Hall, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays as a women’s co-working space. Guests are welcome to attend all events for a fee.
The idea for a women’s social club came to Drilling and Willbanks in the aftermath of COVID-19 shutdowns. Both stated that they had often thought about the toll the shutdowns had taken on many people’s mental health and how important social interaction is for everyone, from children to the elderly. Moreover, women significantly benefit from being around women, and Southern Social has offered the ladies of Morrilton and Conway County valuable opportunities to further and perhaps rekindle friendships while also making new connections with other women in their community. Meanwhile, these ladies learn together about topics that affect them directly, which often leads to dynamic conversations that allow women to feel empowered and supported by their fellow neighbors. Since its inception, the community has been extremely supportive of Willbanks and Drilling’s vision. Both women believe that the success of their other local businesses has helped them gain trust, which in turn assures their members that Southern Social values its members’ and guests’ time and investments. Drilling and Willbanks are always working diligently on bringing quality speakers and activities to their members each month. The topic of “Gaining Confidence to Achieve Your Goals” followed by “Vino and Vision Boards” is only one example of the pair’s thoughtful creativity.
July was an exceptional example of Southern Social members and guests coming together to learn from speakers while also being treated to various topic-related activities throughout the month. The theme for July was Self-Care and Mental Health. On July 11, Wendy Blackwood, therapist and director of Healing Path Counseling, was accompanied by Townsend, professional musician and podcaster. Both spoke about managing stress and anxiety. Later that month, ladies were invited to Self-Care Saturday, where they had access to chair massages, Botox and IV health drips, all performed by licensed professionals. Meanwhile, members present received discount cards to local businesses.
The topics and speakers have certainly been impressive. Donna Terrell, Emmy Award-winning journalist and FOX 16 news anchor, was also a speaker. Her topic was “Finding Triumph Over Tragedy,” where she openly spoke about the death of her daughter. Another notable speaker was Deena Burnett Bailey, owner, CEO, author and widow of 9/11 United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett. Her topic was “Remaining Resilient through the Unthinkable.”
As a mother of three young girls at the time of the tragedy, Burnett Bailey spoke to the Southern Social members and guests about how fortunate she was to have a community of neighbors, church members and friends who instinctively took the reins and helped her in all areas of her day-to-day life during an unthinkable time, from getting her children to school to buying groceries. She was asked by a Southern Social member about the importance of women in her life in the aftermath of 9/11. With tears in her eyes, she passionately replied, “Women were vital. They became my family; my friends were now my sisters.”
This is the goal of Southern Social. It is a place where women can come together as neighbors while also supporting each other as sisters.