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The Binky Patrol: Hugs from the heart

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Terri Brubaker holds up a pieced quilt made and donated by Rain Klepper.

Hugs for kids. That's how Connie Harris and Terri Brubaker describe the blankets they make through the Binky Patrol, a nationwide effort to reach out to needy kids with a comforting handmade blanket, or "binky."

Connie was a "friend" of the chapter in Montrose, and on the day her grandmother died a post from that chapter popped up on her Facebook page. Since her grandmother was the one "who taught me how to do all this fun stuff," Terri decided to establish a chapter in Delta County in honor of her grandmother.

Her two greatest memories of her grandmother were her hugs and her big rock garden. Connie combined the two to come up with the chapter's name, "Grandma's Garden of Hugs."

"To me, these blankets are a hug," Connie said.

She established a Facebook page for the local chapter and in just over a month 35 volunteers stepped up to either make handmade blankets, or to provide yarn, fabric and batting for other willing hands.

Unfortunately, just a couple of weeks into the project, Connie's "better half," Ray Penland, broke his neck in a farming accident. She found herself scrambling to keep up with the farm chores between trips to the hospital and rehab. Unwilling to give up the growing chapter, she reached out to a good friend, Terri Brubaker, who readily agreed to collect donations and help out with the paperwork.

Terri could have easily claimed she had no time -- she's a caretaker for her mother, who's recovering from surgery, and has a large spread on Rogers Mesa to tend. But how do you tell someone like Connie you're too busy? Connie is a full-time grandmother who makes quilted photo albums and flag afghans to order. With Ray laid up, she's farming their six acres of land on Redlands Mesa and she's up to her elbows in canning jars.

But Terri and Connie are the proof behind the old saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy person."

"There's gotta be 28 hours in a day," they said. "There's no way we could do all this in 24!"

The answer, Terri said, lies in carving out an hour while the dishpans are soaking in the sink, or 20 minutes while you're waiting for the washing machine to finish.

"You find the minutes when it's something you care about," she said.

"Maybe these kids don't have a mom, or a grandma, to do it for them. So you invent the time."

Binkies come in a variety of sizes and can be sewn, knitted, crocheted or quilted. A Binky Patrol label is sewn in the corner of each blanket.

Each chapter designates the recipients of the "binkies." Connie and Terri are first committed to Delta County, making sure the need here is met. "If there's a disaster, the Delta County chapter could transfer some blankets elsewhere, but we mainly want to take care of the needs here at home first," Terri said.

"That was why I started a chapter in this area," Connie added. "We didn't have one; the closest are in Montrose and Clifton. I decided it was time to take care of the kids here at home."

Connie and Terri plan to provide blankets to the Delta County Department of Social Services, as well as ambulances, fire districts and law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County. In the event of a fire, an accident or an incidence of domestic violence, they're the first people who see a child who is in need of the comfort of a blanket.

"Our main focus is the little ones," Terri said. "Once we make sure all the kids are warm and cuddled, then we'll start with the rest of the world."

Binky Patrol's unique way of touching a child's life includes hats, booties, gowns, pillows and stuffed toys, in addition to the blankets.

Most volunteers work on their own, but in the future Connie and Terri hope to host a bink-a-thon, where everyone can get together for a fun day of fellowship and blanket making.

Even if you don't know how to sew or knit, you can make a tied fleece blanket. All you need is some fleece fabric, a pair of scissors and the directions from binkypatrol.org.

Or, you can pick up yarn, fabric or batting inexpensively at garage sales. "We will find somebody in our chapter who will use those materials to make a blanket," Terri said.

For experienced quilters with a stash of fabric, the smaller size binkies are a great opportunity to piece together a colorful assortment of scraps. All designs are acceptable, as long as they are soft, washable and can make it through the dryer on high.

You can learn more about Grandma's Garden of Hugs on Facebook -- just search for Hotchkiss Binky Patrol. To arrange pickup for finished blankets or materials, call Terri at 872-3272 or Connie at 644-7902.

"These blankets will mean the world to a kid who doesn't understand what's going on ... when everything they know has been ripped away from them," Terri said.

Binky Patrol photo A tied fleece blanket is the perfect alternative for volunteers who don’t know how to sew.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Each binky is delivered with a Binky Patrol label (provided) sewn or attached in the corner.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Connie Harris is a crafty lady with a big heart who established a Delta County chapter of Binky Patrol.
Photo by Pat Sunderland These crocheted afghans will serve as a reminder that someone cares.
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