Sunday, August 20, 2000

LONG BEACH When asked how many hours a week she spends on Binky Patrol, Dottie Blan shrugs her shoulders, looks to the heavens, and, with a small mischievous grin, says, “I just don’t know.”

That’s when her good friend Pat Nordstrom, another Binky Patrol foot soldier, chimes in.

“Hours and hours and hours and hours,” says Nordstrom, as she carefully straightens the dozens of handmade blankets, otherwise known as Binkies, “a token of love for a child in need.”

Dozens of these quilts in every color and fabric imaginable are lying on tables ready to be packed, folded and shepherded away to needy children.

Blan is the regional coordinator of Binky Patrol, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing handmade blankets to children who are ill, in foster care, experiencing trauma, or recovering from abuse. The program began in 1996 in Mission Viejo, and chapters all across the country now make blankets for children in their communities.

“Sometimes I just Bink all day (that’s Binky talk for sewing blankets),” Blan says. “It’s a way to be creative, be a part of your community and help others. It just feels really good.”

Since taking over the Long Beach chapter a few years ago, Blan has started chapters in Artesia, Garden Grove, North Long Beach and Manhattan Beach. She even started one in Oklahoma City while visiting family.

Since the national program’s inception, the group has given away over 60,000 blankets. Each chapter gives sewn, knitted or crocheted blankets to local children. They are delivered everywhere, from hospitals to homeless shelters, to youth ranging from newborns to 18-year-olds.

“Sometimes these kids have experienced a great trauma and have been taken from their homes with nothing but the clothes … on their back. It’s nice for them to know that there are people out there that care,” Blan says.

But the demand for Binkies far outweighs the supply, says Blan.

“We can’t make enough Binkies, it seems. We are always looking for fabric, batting, yarn and sewers. Nothing is ever considered an ugly Binky,” she says.

Those who make Binkies do so in many ways. Some people never leave their homes; they just sew away and then give a bundle to Blan to distribute. Others meet in churches, community centers or a neighbor’s home to sew Binkies.

“It’s a nice way for people to feel like they are contributing to their community if they would rather not leave the comfort of their own home,” says Nordstrom, who no longer drives.

On October 28, a large group will meet for the national Bink-A-Thon. On this day, which will coincide with National Make A Difference Day, Binky Patrols from across the country will meet and sew “their little hearts out,” says Blan.

In addition to the upcoming national sewing day, Blan’s group meets the fourth Saturday of every month at Lakewood First Presbyterian Church, 3955 N. Studebaker Road in Long Beach. Anyone who wants to participate is welcome. For more information on the Bink-A-Thon or the monthly meetings, call Dottie Blan at (562) 431-5352.