Long Beach Press Telegram 1/25/98

Read the story that brought new life to Binky Patrol in North Orange County/South LA County.  This started a chain reaction with Dottie Blan that has led to at least 10 new chapters!

About six months ago, Lorraine Spencer of Los Alamitos was feeling pretty sorry for herself.

“All of a sudden I couldn’t run around, I wasn’t active anymore,’ says the ex-schoolteacher who was recently became dependent on using a wheelchair. “I felt really sorry for me for about one day, and then I decided I better do something about it.’

An article in a newspaper soliciting volunteers to make quilts and blankets for sick and homeless children gave Spencer, 79, an idea.

“I decided that’s for me,’ the diminutive, soft-spoken mother of three says. “I had made car covers, piano covers and underwear, but I had never made a quilt before. I dug around in my back room and found some (fabric) and made a quilt.’

Spencer is now a full-fledged member of the Binky Patrol, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Aliso Viejo. In fact, she’s volunteered to coordinate the effort to recruit and train additional volunteers to sew, knit or crochet and distribute the colorful quilts to hospitals and homeless shelters in Los Alamitos and the greater Long Beach area.

Spencer, who taught home economics and math to middle school youngsters for 25 years, says experience in quilt-making isn’t a requirement. “Most people think `quilt,’ and they immediately think of these great big doublebed-sized quilts,’ Spencer says, “but most of the ones we do are small and child-sized.’

There are other jobs for volunteers who are reluctant to immediately try their hand at sewing, knitting or crocheting. Volunteers can deliver the completed binkies to hospitals and shelters, as well as scavenge for fabric, thread and other materials from clothes manufacturers, their neighbors or their own closets.

“People who buy a chunk of material, but don’t use it can send it over to me,’ she says. “Sheets that have a big rip in them can be cut up for pieces. One lady brought me a dress that she hated. We cut it up and it made the prettiest quilt.’

BP, as members call the Binky Patrol, has given away approximately 6,500 quilts and blankets since its inception in May 1996, brightening the lives of thousands of children in 25 states and Canada, says the organization’s vice president, Lisa Haefner.

President and founder of the organization, Susan Finch of Laguna Beach, started the Binky Patrol as a way to divert her thoughts from her recession-hit art gallery. But it was a mention of the group’s purpose on the Oprah Winfrey show in June of 1996 that assured its success.

“We got 700 phone calls that first weekend,’ Haefner, 34, says. “We now have approximately 30 chapters and about 2,500 volunteers.’ She says about 20 percent of the volunteers are school-age children. Some volunteers have made the Binky Patrol a family project, Haefner says. “It’s giving kids a chance to work with their moms and dads…,’ she says. “It’s a way that they can create together, and it’s bringing back the family unit.’

The simple act of giving free blankets to sick children has personal meaning for Haefner.

“I was sick for 10 years with a chronic autoimmune disease, and I was in and out of the hospital constantly,’ she says. “I know what it’s like to be sick. When I had my own pillow and blanket at the hospital, I felt better because they were mine.’

Haefner, cured when her colon was removed, says seeing the faces of the children and parents receiving the blankets is fulfilling. She recently visited Miller Children’s Hospital at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, delivering 33 of the handcrafted quilts to children and their parents.

“I want (the children) to feel loved,’ Haefner says. “I want them to snuggle with it and feel comfortable and secure.’

The parents “were so appreciative that people would spend so much time making those quilts,’ said Miller’s Family-Centered Care coordinator Linda Williams. “It was just a wonderful, warm gesture.’

You can help

If you are interested in joining the Binky Patrol, call (949) 499-BINK.