September 29, 1997

They sneak silently in the night, carrying bags into homes and churches.

They try to hook young and old, female and male, into their habit.

They’re the Binky Patrol. Their business is blankets for itty-bitty ones.

“Some kids call them that (binkies),” said Judy Ginkowski, a special education teacher at Roosevelt School who is the patrol’s area coordinator. “They have taken over my life.”

Patrol members make two kinds of blankets — a 3-feet X 4-feet child’s security blanket model, and a 12-inch by 12-inch version that will be given to tiny premature babies in neonatal intensive care units.

They’ve met once a month since June at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and some work at the project at home. From an original group of eight, sessions now draw about 28 people, Ginkowski said.

The first delivery of about 40 security blankets is scheduled Tuesday at Women’s Horizons, which provides services and shelter to battered women and their children.

Jenn Schinker, director of children’s services at the agency, said she’s very pleased with the contribution.

“One of the best things anyone can give these kids is security, and the blankets symbolize that,” Schinker said. “We’re very grateful to these people for doing this.”

Future deliveries are expected at agencies that assist children in need, whether that need is a result of homelessness, illness or abuse. Arrangements are being made to bring the smaller blankets to the neonatal unit at St. Luke’s Hospital in Racine.

“These will go to babies who only weigh one or two pounds, so their parents can tuck them in at night,” Ginkowksi said. “It’s a psychological thing.”

Erika Kelly volunteered to help when she heard about the program at the Senior Citizens Center. She teaches children how to make items from pressed flowers at the interracial fairs held at several Kenosha schools, and also creates flower arrangements and jewelry for the Christmas fair at the Senior Center.

She worked at Kenosha Beef International until she was disabled by back and heart problems.

“I enjoy children,” Kelly said. “Mothers don’t have time to do this when they work, and I like to help out, especially for the little ones when they’re ill.” The patrol here is the only one in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. It’s a national program that started a year and a half ago in California.

Ginkowski first heard about the project in summer 1996 on an Oprah Winfrey show about ways to help your community. Months later she received a packet proclaiming her as area coordinator.

“I do quilting, like my mother and grandmother. I like to be involved in lots of things for kids. I wasn’t sure about being area coordinator. But when I told my friends about it, they thought it was really important, too.”

She began talking to groups about getting involved with binkies — seniors, Girl and Boy Scout troops, schools, even the Southport Quilters.

At the Ginkowski home, 9-year-old daughter Galina helps her mother by tying blankets and cutting yarn. Her husband, Richard, an assistant district attorney, communicates on the Internet to Binky headquarters in California and does the mail for her.

“It’s a family affair here,” she said. “We have blankets stacked up in one room. We’re making them faster than we can distribute them.” Ginkowski also plans to have her Brownie troop make some blankets for the premature babies.

The covers are basically two big squares of fabric, with batting in between for extra softness. One woman knits or crochets her blankets. A heart-shaped Binky logo goes on each one.

Jockey International donated “tons of fabric” she said. Calico, Canvas and Colors, a quilt store in Racine, also collects material for them.

It was her mother, Inez Hagberg, who makes quilts at St. Paul’s Church for Lutheran World Relief, who told her to ask Jockey about getting fabric there. Those who attend the monthly binky-making sessions at St. Paul’s don’t need to be skilled sewers, Ginkowski said.

“If you can cut and tie knots, we have something for you to do.” Although the patrol takes up enormous amounts of her time these days, she doesn’t regret getting involved.

“I’ve always had the desire to make the world better. And I think it’s important for my daughter to see me do things like this.”