An angelic group of Greenwood women meet once a month for fine dining — both near and far — and to spend time with each other.

They call themselves the Heavenly Seven.

“It was just funny how it all started and fell in place, and it’s continued,” said member Loyce Dykes.

Also included in the group are Nancy Ehret, Susan Ehret, Glenda Grossman, Vicki Pittman, Susan Sheridan and Martha Randall, all of Greenwood.

The women know each other from church. They all attend Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, and the group started during a breakfast at Steven’s Barbecue after the Monday morning Mass.

“We enjoyed eating out, so we said, ‘Let’s form a lunch bunch,’” said Nancy Ehret.

They first started meeting in 2014 as the Fabulous Five, since they only had five members then, and later expanded to the Heavenly Seven with an addition of two members.

For their first get-together, they traveled to Grenada and ate at Orleans Bistro, a New Orleans-style restaurant, at Grossman’s suggestion.

“We thought, ‘This is pretty neat. Let’s do this once a month,’” said Dykes.

Their next outing was also in Grenada at Carmella’s, an Italian restaurant.

The group, however, soon became more adventurous with its destinations.

One of their first big road trips was to Tunica. They ate at Cafe Marie and were introduced to the chef, Eddie Mac.

“He came over to our table, told us how he came to be in Tunica, discussed his culinary career, and we got to know him,” said Ehret.

She said the group tries to personalize each outing by getting to know the history of the restaurant, the chef and “of course, the food specials.”

While on their trip to Tunica, the members also had dinner at Texas de Brazil, which included more than 20 meat items alone, a huge salad bar with cheese platters, veggies and soups. Then, they ended up splitting three desserts.

The next morning, they enjoyed breakfast at Tunica’s Blue and White Restaurant, which first opened in 1924 on old Route 61.

Their meetings always feature good places to eat and spending time together around a table.

“We grew up around a dining room table, a kitchen table,” said Ehret. “We didn’t grow up with fast food. We didn’t grow up with drive-thru windows. That just wasn’t heard of back then, and I think that’s been our driving force.”

Most of the members are self-proclaimed foodies.

“Truth be known, there are six of us who love to eat and talk about food morning, noon and night,” said Ehret. “We plan where we eat, and we research it. But there is one of us who doesn’t care about food at all.”

That member is Dykes, who said jokingly, “We all travel together. I think that’s why they let me in, because my car holds seven.”

When it comes to New Orleans cuisine, however, the rest of the women have noticed that Dykes is particular on what she likes.

When the South Louisiana native heard that gumbo was a special during one of the group’s outings, she asked the waitress for a sample before ordering.

“Why not see what the gumbo tasted like,” said Dykes. “She was real nice about it.”

The waitress brought out samples for all, and the women enjoyed the gumbo so much that they each ordered it.

“It was a different side of Loyce that I had ever seen,” said Grossman.

While some of the group’s outings involve just a meal together, others include an overnight stay, shopping, a concert, a train ride or tours.

A favorite trip was to Memphis for an Elvis symphony concert. They stayed at the Bass Pro Shop at The Pyramid.

“The Bass Pro Shop had just opened at the Pyramid, so we got two wonderful suites,” said Ehret.

This trip is when the Fabulous Five turned into the Heavenly Seven. Two of the members couldn’t attend, so Sheridan and Pittman attended and have remained with the group since.

The women didn’t realize all the amenities that were included with their suites.

“The (hotel) provided us a chauffeured ride to dinner, picked us up afterwards, took us to the concert, brought us back to the hotel after the concert,” said Ehret. “As well as drove us to church Sunday and brought us back to the hotel after services.”

Their stay also included dining at the well-known Flight Restaurant.

The Heavenly Seven’s next big excursion was when the members took the train from Greenwood to New Orleans.

“I can’t say enough about the train,” said Ehret.

“You go through the town of Brookhaven. You go through the town of McComb. We skirt all those towns on the interstate. I’d never been through all those towns.”

When arriving at New Orleans, the group planned for a tour of five different catholic churches.

“We said we were going to make it religious, so we hired a guide,” said Ehret.

Grossman added, “It was during lent, so we really needed to do something.”

After that, the group had a rustic stay at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale. They roomed in “Bill’s house.”

“It was actually a barn,” said Ehret. “The longer we stayed, the more we liked it. ... We were surprised there were people there from six different countries.”

One morning, the members started up a conversation with two couples from Sweden.

“We were talking about why they were in the United States and different things,” said Sheridan. “They got ready to leave. The lady started to walk away, and she came back around and said, ‘Just to let you know, people are not this nice in Sweden.”

Another trip included dining at The Pharm in Ruleville and a drive to Drew to search for former NFL star Archie Manning’s childhood home.

“Martha loves Archie Manning,” said Ehret. “When we were in New Orleans, besides doing the city tours, we had to ride the street car down past Archie’s house and get off the street car to see Archie’s house.”

But they ran into a problem in Drew.

“We didn’t know which one was the right house,” said Susan Ehret.

After some searching and an awkward encounter with a local, they eventually found the former Manning home.

Other outings include an Elvis concert at Delta State University where they wore 1960s outfits, Sky Lake Boardwalk near Belzoni and B.T.C. (Be The Change) Old Fashioned Grocery’s cafe in Water Valley.

As much as the Heavenly Seven members look forward to traveling, they also enjoy the culinary delights that Greenwood offers.

Some of their favorite local restaurants include Serio’s, Webster’s, Crystal Grill, Veronica’s Custom Bakery, No Way Jose and Giardina’s, old favorite Steven’s Barbecue, and newcomers Mississippi Mo Joe Coffee and The Venue. The group also attended a wine tasting at The Winery at Williams’s Landing.

Each member has hosted parties at her home, where they all bring their signature dishes.

“We were at Martha’s house, and she plays a mean piano,” said Grossman.

Although they enjoy trying out different restaurants and visiting new places, the glue that holds the members of the Heavenly Seven group together is friendship.

“It’s our fellowship and our support that we have for each other,” said Dykes. “We know that at any given time 7-24 you can call and they’ll be there for you. I know they’ve prayed enough for me with things that happened.”

Nancy Ehret said the members are not afraid to open up to one another, talk about hardships they may be facing or ask for help and prayer.

“There’s not that many people you know where you can say ‘I need help,’ and they’re coming,” she said. “They are dropping everything and coming. That’s hard to find in this day and age, because people have busy lives.”

Grossman said when she suggested the first restaurant for the newly formed group to try she was going through a big change in her life.

“I had just sold my house in Holcomb, and I didn’t really want to sell my house and 40 acres,” she said. “I had moved all of the furniture out, and the people were fixing to move in. We went and had dinner at Orleans, and then we came back to my house. We all sat around the fireplace and talked about stories and talked about things that happened there. That was really consoling to me that they cared enough to do that. ... This group has been a blessing, and my children are so grateful that I’m part of this, because they say, ‘Mother, we do not worry about you when you go off with your friends.’”

• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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