Thursday, June 15, 2000

News from Laguna Beach in the Los Angeles Times

Security Blankets
Binky Patrol, a Volunteer Group Based in Laguna Beach, Provides Comforting Covers

By LYNN O’DELL, Special to The Times

     A binky, as most everyone knows, is a blanket. But not every blanket is a binky.
     A binky can be crocheted, knitted, sewn or quilted but it has to be handmade with love. And it has to be given to someone who needs comfort, such as a neglected child or an abused teen.
     Thanks to the Binky Patrol, a nationwide army of volunteers headquartered in Laguna Beach, the number of binkies in the world has multiplied. In four years, the group has grown from five to 3,000 volunteers and produced 70,000 blankets for children and teens who are ill, abused, homeless or in foster care.
     To celebrate four years of making “comforting covers,” binkyites are gathering Monday at a member’s Mission Viejo home. There, handmade blankets from 12 states will be presented to Human Options, a shelter program for battered women that received the group’s first binkies.
     Shirley Gellatly, education director at Human Options, remembers one of the first times the Binky Patrol brought quilts to the shelter. A mother with five children, who had left their home in the middle of the night, got to choose quilts.
     “I remember the mother saying she had never had anything so beautiful. During their stay, these handmade treasures became security blankets for the children,” said Gellatly. “They left the shelter and took these wonderful quilts with them as tangible reminders of a kind and generous gift from someone they never met but who had made a measurable difference in their lives.”
     Blankets are also given to the Ronald McDonald House, Laguna Beach Community Clinic, Laura’s House and Project Dignity, which works with children who live in motels.
     “We do much more than hand out blankets–we have a medical van and we provide food and school bags to motel children,” said Linda Dunlap of Project Dignity. “But this is something the [children] love the most. Of everything we do, it’s the most joyful thing to be able to give to a child.”
     The Binky Patrol was created out of founder Susan Finch’s need for comfort. Feeling down about business and personal woes, Roush said she was moping when her mother announced she wanted to make blankets for unwed mothers and asked for her help.
     Roush tacked up a sign-up sheet outside her Laguna Beach art gallery and gathered material from the framers at her shop, and the Binky Patrol was up and running.
     Although she collected quilts, Roush had few sewing skills when she started making binkies, but she’s learned a lot since then.
     “People who knew me growing up, especially those in my home economics class, wouldn’t believe what I’m doing now,” said Roush, 34, who works as a Web page designer and spends 20 hours a week doing publicity and collecting donations for the Binky Patrol.
     The group’s rapid growth has something to do with the Internet but more to do with Oprah Winfrey and national television. Roush put out a press release about the group and Winfrey’s staff picked up on it because of the connection with children and AIDS. On the air for only 20 seconds, Roush said she received 800 telephone calls and was completely overwhelmed.
     “We were only in our third week. We weren’t ready, but what was I going to do? Say no to Oprah? I don’t think so,” Roush said.
     A feature in Family Circle magazine two years later brought more than 3,000 letters and Roush credits an online volunteer site ( with recent chapter growth. There are now 135 chapters in 40 states with volunteers who range from children who draw colorful pictures on fabric squares to elderly expert quilters.
     The group’s Web site,, offers sample binky patterns and tips on starting a chapter. Local chapters can usually count on start-up fabric from headquarters but must do the rest themselves.
     Clothing and bedding manufacturers donate most of the fabric, stored in the group’s Aliso Viejo warehouse. Sponsors such as Carter Ground Fueling in Costa Mesa supply free shipping service but donations of cotton batting and sewing supplies are always needed along with funds to pay for postage and photocopying costs, Roush said.
     Nothing goes to waste. A batch of donated buttons, for example, became a Braille alphabet wall hanging for the Blind Children’s Learning Center.
     Help often comes unexpectedly. Like the family that stopped by the other day and announced its summer project would be a fund-raiser for the Binky Patrol.
     “They liked the name,” said Roush, who named the project after a homeless man who walks around with a blanket on his head. People call him Binky but his real name is Shandor, Roush said. He always asks “How are the babies?” and once reached in his wallet and gave her a dollar, saying he had extra that day.
     “It doesn’t take much to make a difference,” Roush said. “That dollar bought batting for one blanket.”
     Binky Patrol: 503-214-8346; e-mail

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