//Chelsea Blankenship, the founder of Colorado Girl Gang, in Denver. Photo by Madeleine Kelly | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: One of the women in this story, Lauren Carter, is Ms. Mayhem’s social media manager in addition to being a moderator of Colorado Girl Gang and co-owner of Grl Pwrd.
The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has inarguably torn the country’s social fabric.
Confinement indoors replaced regular meetups and casual interactions. But social media groups like Colorado Girl Gang reveal how despite barriers, connection and community are possible.
The Colorado Girl Gang Facebook group, founded by Chelsea Blankenship, has more than 9,000 members from various identities and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I wanted to create a space where all women, regardless of marriage or kids, whoever they are, can have a seat at the table,” Blankenship said.
The digital space, founded in 2018 upon the pillars of sisterhood and collaboration, is filled with posts ranging from self-care tips, wellness check-ins and dating advice to event invitations and more. Blankenship reported an average of 4,000 posts a month on the page, all of which she and a few helpers moderate daily.
To stay even more connected as Denver and the state as a whole stay secured under restrictions, Blankenship aims to personally talk to one to two people in the group a month about who they are and what they do.
One member Blankenship has connected with is Raven Faber, founder of EngErotics, which develops intimacy devices out of Westminster. Faber joined CGG in September 2018 and believes the group is one of integrity.
“Chelsea works really hard to maintain the ethics and safety of the group and that’s why I’m happy to be a part of it,” Faber said. “I find it to be a wonderful place to network, engage in discussions, ask [and] give advice and find resources.”
While Faber is a structural engineer, other members’ occupations range from stay-at-home moms to artists, entrepreneurs and business owners.
Similar to many women in CGG, Blankenship embodies the female entrepreneurial spirit. Aside from running the Facebook page, she is a full-time realtor and event creator with her side business, Grl Pwrd Events, which she runs with her friend Lauren Carter.
“Starting a business from scratch is insanely difficult, as is starting a community,” she said. “Lots of tears are involved as it takes time for people to see you, trust, understand and believe in you.”
When Blankenship moved to Denver with her husband in 2012, she already had experience cultivating digital communities. After trial and error with a group she co-created, Denver Boss Babe Collective, she moved on to form her own group, and CGG was born.
“Not being alone is huge,” she said. “Women crave community, and I enjoy making it!”
As reported in a Cigna Healthcare survey, loneliness is at epidemic levels in the United States. Nearly 25% of those surveyed said their mental health is fair or poor, with one of the top causes pointing to a lack of social support and infrequent meaningful social interactions. Blankenship personally knows what it’s like to be without community, something many people have been exasperated by this past year.
As a newlywed right out of high school, Blankenship craved a like-minded connection in her small South Carolina town. She had moved an hour away from her family and her husband was in the Marines.
“I was excited, but I kept meeting military spouses who never left their house, didn’t know what to do, couldn’t make friends,” she said. “I realized there was an opportunity to help these women make the best of their time while they were stationed where they were and help them create friends. Especially when your husband or spouse is gone, it’s hard.”
At 19 years old, she browsed Facebook in search of fellow military spouses. She formed a group called USMC Sisters and invited folks to meet her at a nearby restaurant where she worked. Twelve women showed up, and a few hours later, 12 new friendships had formed. The group continued to expand across state lines, with several new chapters. Blankenship says she didn’t realize the magnitude of the group at the time.
Since then, USMC Sisters has fizzled out, but Blankenship was hooked on what was possible with just one call to action. From then on, she pursued her passion toward creating spaces that bestow a sense of belonging among women.
“I would say as a person, I’m a natural creator of community,” she said. “It’s easy for me to connect people. I am a woman; it’s always been who I’ve been surrounded by.”
Blankenship says she is committed to growing the community. Over the past month she implemented a $2 joining fee with the hope of making the community and conversation more intentional. The bonus is she’s now able to support her moderators for the roles they play.
“Stay true to yourself and your ‘why,’” Blankenship said. “It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day, but if you stay true to yourself and your why, you will be okay.”