MARIETTA - A local chapter of the international Red Hat Society, an organization dedicated to reshaping the way women are viewed in today's culture, is looking for new members.
"We're a group of Christian women who just want to show the world that it's fun to be Christian, but we also want to help women see how appreciated and important they are," said Marietta resident Sherry Ritchie, leader and queen angel of Marietta Angels Rejoice Chapter 85147 of the Red Hat Society.
The local chapter was formed in August by Ritchie, who was soon joined by seven other women, and their numbers are continuing to grow.
Photo by Sam Shawver
Members of Marietta Angels Rejoice Chapter 85147 of the Red Hat Society celebrate with accordion accompaniment during a gathering at the Oak Grove Recreation Center.
"Anybody's welcome," she said. "We're not a church group; we're just women enjoying some fellowship and having a lot of fun."
Age is no problem, either, Ritchie said. Members range from 16 to 64 years old.
Members who are more than 50 years old are called "Red Hatters" and wear the society's signature red hats and purple garb, while those 49 and under wear pink and lavender and are known as "Pink Hatters."
"When a woman turns 50 we celebrate with a 'Reduation Ceremony,'" Ritchie said.
Red Hatter Susan Adams of Fleming said the society uses fun and sometimes just plain "silliness" for a more serious purpose.
"As women grow older, they often don't have a social life that many younger women do," she said. "So this is a chance for those women to get out more and learn how important they really are in the community."
Stockport resident Becky Dellenbaugh puts her talent on the accordion to good use with the local Red Hat Society as she sometimes plays when the group participates in parades throughout the region.
"I met a woman from Columbus recently and somehow we started talking about the Red Hat Society," Dellenbaugh said. "She recalled seeing a group of Red Hatters in a parade in Marietta and one was playing an accordion. I told her that was me."
Teresa Dilworth of Barlow's first experience with the Red Hat Society came through her place of employment.
"I worked in a local nursing home, and Red Hatters would often come and take the residents out to various activities," she said.
Ritchie said that's the kind of outreach she'd like to foster with the Marietta Angels Rejoice group.
"We want to be a light to our community," she said. "At Christmas we plan to go into nursing homes and sing, but we also want to reach out to women living in shelters or those who are homeless - to help meet the needs of women in the surrounding community.
"Women need to know it's OK to be silly at times - just to have a good time. The Bible calls laughter 'good medicine,'" Ritchie said. "But what we want in all seriousness is to help these women. That's the heart of this organization."
She noted the Red Hat Society, headquartered in California, has chapters in more than 80 countries around the globe.
"They just held a big 'Hoot' (convention) in the United Kingdom," Ritchie said. "It's really become a huge society."
Sherry and husband, Rick Ritchie, are pastors with the House Of The Forgiven Church in Oak Grove.
"I was somewhat familiar with the Red Hat Society, and had seen them riding in wagons in local parades," Rick said. "But forming this chapter was her idea."
Sherry said it seemed to be the right thing to do.
"I had this in my heart for about a year," she explained. "I've ministered to women and families who are facing difficult times. And I thought this could make a difference and help bring some peace in the midst of their trials - by just building friendships with other women they can gain strength."
New members are being accepted into the Marietta Angels Rejoice Chapter 85147 of the Red Hat Society.
The next meeting will be a Red Hat Tea at 1 p.m. Feb. 2 at the home of Sherry Ritchie, 103 Circle Drive, Marietta. For more information, contact Ritchie at (740) 629-7735.