Orange County Register – October 29, 2000

CHARITY: The Binky Patrol seamstresses are among those lending a hand.

Ladies, start your sewing machines.

The Binky Patrol was out in force Saturday at the Laguna Beach Retirement Community.

They were there to be a part of Make a Difference Day, a national day of service.

About 200 girls and women, ages 8 to senior citizen, hauled their sewing machines down to the senior center, plugged them in and put the pedal to the metal.

The nonprofit Binky Patrol marshals seamstresses all year long, making thousands of blankets for homeless and abused children. But most of the volunteers work alone at home and then drive their blankets to Binky headquarters.

Make a Difference Day is the one time a year they gather to sew together. They took over the retirement center. They turned the lounge into a sewing factory, setting up rows of tables and machines. They spilled out onto the patio. And stretched out on the floor with scissors and fabric.

There was a Girl Scout troop hand-stitching in a circle on the carpet; Delta Phi Gamma sorority sisters ironing in one room; Mormon teens sucking lollipops at their sewing machines in another room; and a moms’ club in the lounge.

Many of the sewers were not official Binky Patrol members but saw the “bink-a-thon” announcement on a Web site or in the newspaper.

Julie Otto, 34, said she always wanted to make a quilt but quilts aren’t her style, so this was a good way to make a quilt and not have to keep it.

A chiropractor adjusted the women’s backs as they bent over their machines. Wahoo’s brought tacos. Hoffman Fabrics donated 1,000 yards of cloth. By day’s end, it had been turned into 200 blankets for children in shelters and hospitals.

“We came here to help children who might be cold,” said Stephanie Peterson, 9, from Girl Scout Troop 1273 in Rancho Santa Margarita.

“Someone will get this blanket and then they’ll be happy, and you can imagine how they’ll feel when they wrap the blanket around them,” said Melissa Ashbrook, a seventh-grader at Niguel Hills.

Cari Upchurch, 28, of Aliso Viejo said she hopes Make a Difference Day inspires more people to do more things: “You have to. I mean you really have to. You just have to,” she said. “We’re all so lucky. And we complain about the stupidest things.”

Across Orange County, thousands of people felt the same calling. They hugged seniors, picked up litter, painted over graffiti and repaired houses.

  • In Santa Ana, Mardell Bryant was told she had 60 days to fix up the outside of her mobile home or the landlords would do it themselves — and charge her.

    Church men to the rescue.

    A dozen dusty, noisy guys hammered, sawed and drilled their way into Bryant’s heart.

    “It’s an answer to my prayer,” she said, sitting at her kitchen table.

    As a child, Bryant, 57, was afflicted with polio, making it difficult for her to walk. Recently the former medical transcriptionist went on a fixed disability income.

    When she got the notice from her landlord, she “felt hopeless for a moment.” Then she told her pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Santa Ana. He told his men’s group. And they set about raising the $2,200 needed to buy siding, paint and other materials.

    They showed up Saturday at 8 a.m. and planned to stay until dark. Larry Barton, a Boeing employee from Fountain Valley, said the men gave up their Saturday golf and TV football because, “We love the Lord and we love our church members. This is our family.”

    Martin Morely of Santa Ana said the men’s group takes on about a dozen projects a year. “We just come in like ants, tear it all apart and put it back new,” he said. “Not only that, but it feels good.”

  • At Seal Beach, the rain let up around 11 a.m., letting 350 people clean up. They collected 700 bags – or about 4,000 pounds — of trash, including shoes, a cell phone and medical debris, said Kim Masoner, Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce president.

    California’s first lady was among the volunteers.

    “I was surprised when I was asked to help clean the beach. Usually, people ask me to make speeches and attend ceremonies, more formal things,” said Sharon Davis, wearing running shoes and gloves. “But I don’t think anyone should stand so tall that they cannot stoop down.” Register reporter Princess Choi contributed to this report.

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