VOLUNTEER: Motherly advice inspired one woman to spawn a culture of giving.

With a struggling marriage and business, Susan Finch was on the “pity pot” – and her mother was quick to tell her to get off. “She told me to go out and do something for somebody else to get through it,” said Finch, a resident of Laguna Niguel. Finch took her mother’s advice and started Binky Patrol. The national organization, which celebrated eight years on Tuesday, provides loveable blankets to children in need.

Finch was recently recognized for her kindness as the recipient of the “Good Samaritan” award, given by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Recipients of the award can not be members of the Mormon Church. “We felt like those who exemplify the biblical Good Samaritan should be recognized and honored, ” said Bryant W. Rossiter, director of public affairs for the church’s Laguna Niguel stake.

The homemade blankets, known as binkies, can be sewn, knitted, crocheted or quilted. “The only requirement we really have is that they can make it through the machine without falling apart,” Finch said adding her sewing experience when she started the organization consisted of a seventh grade home economics class. “We don’t want to have too many restrictions because that takes away from the spirit of volunteering.”

For Finch making binkies was the perfect way to volunteer. She wanted to do something to give to others, but was unsure how she could help since her time was absorbed with an art gallery she owned in Laguna Beach. “Like many people in Orange County I worked way to much and had little time to volunteer,” Finch said. But making blankets was something she could do on her own time.

 In May of 1996 Finch put a sign outside her Laguna Beach gallery asking for others to join her efforts. Five people signed up to help and an organization was born. Finch named the non-profit Binky Patrol, after a local homeless man that she had become friendly with while working at her gallery. The man, who was occasionally seen with a blanket draped over his head, was known to some of the merchants as “Binky.”

“The image of his sweetness stuck with me and when I was coming up with the concept for my organization I decided to name it after him,” Finch said.

When Finch later told the homeless man about her organization he took the last $1 out of his wallet and told her, “This is what was left over today. Use it to help the babies.”

It is the generosity of people that have made Binky Patrol so successful, Finch said.

All of the fabric is donated and there are no employees and never will be, she added.

Binky Patrol currently has over 150 chapters and over 20,000 volunteers nationwide ranging in age from 2 to 94.

The organization was able to expand with the help of exposure on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996 and an article in Family Circle in 1998.

An estimated 150,000 blankets have been distributed. Recipients include homeless shelters, children in hospitals, veterans’ hospitals, families who have suffered loss because of natural disasters and the families of service men and women.

The blankets are not only made by Binky Patrol regulars, but also church members, students, Girl Scout troops, retirement home residents and local quilt guilds.

For Finch the reward of knowing she has made a difference in the lives of many children is what keeps her dedicated. She needs no thank you’s. “When you need a thank you, that not giving,” she said. “That’s bartering since you are expecting something back in return. We do this to remind the children that someone is thinking about them and cares about them.”

But sometimes some of the best thank you’s are unspoken. While at a Minor League baseball game Finch saw a child lying under one of the vendor’s tables on a binky. “That’s it,” she said. “That’s all I needed. I knew it was ours and I saw it in action.”