WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Kimberly Renner knows there are thousands of kids throughout southwest Ohio who could use a hug.
But Renner also knows she can’t literally hug them all. That’s why she became the area coordinator for Binky Patrol.
The California-based nonprofit organization gives homemade blankets to kids in need, ensuring that each child has a gift made with love that represents a hug.
“In the southwest Ohio chapter, we are targeting kids who are in foster care, kids who are in homeless shelters, any kind of trauma a child might have,” said Renner, who lives in West Chester. “It’s just a great big hug for a child.”
Renner started the local Binky Patrol chapter Aug. 24 and has made or gathered about 100 blankets so far, she said. The chapter’s first donation went to Hope House Mission, a faith-based ministry that serves homeless men, women and children in Middletown.
Renner is preparing donations for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s residential treatment facility and for Bethany House Services, she said, along with a lengthy list of other local organizations eager to receive blankets.
“Some of the children and youth in our program come to us with every possession they own in one or two bags,” said Steve Nauman, director of Cincinnati Children’s residential program. “Few have things that have been created by someone else that is the children or youth’s alone. It sends a very strong message to the child or youth that someone cares enough to make a blanket for them.”
Binky Patrol serves children ranging in age from one day to 18 years old, Renner said.
Volunteers can make blankets any size from 36 inches by 36 inches square up to a twin-size, she said. The blankets can be quilted, crocheted, knitted or can even be no-sew blankets that simply get cut and knotted.
“As long as it’s new, it’s washable, and it’s soft,” she said. “You can be as creative as you want to be. You can be as plain as you want to be. It just needs to be those things.”
Even young children can help create a blanket, she said.
Renner’s 8-year-old granddaughter paints pictures on squares of fabric that Renner then sews into quilts, for example. Renner has squares of fabric that a local Girl Scout troop painted, too.
“We’re about making those kids feel as good as possible the only way we can,” she said. “We issue them out a blanket, and they know that someone is thinking about them. Because every single one of these blankets is homemade.”
Gifts like the blankets mean a lot to the children who stay at Bethany House Services’ homeless shelters, said Denise Hill, the child-parent coordinator at Bethany House.
“By the time the kids come into shelter, they’ve been in transit, and they don’t really have anything to call their own,” Hill said. “It’s something that belongs to them, and it’s something they can take with them. Especially the younger kids — they hold them tight.”
Renner hopes to spread the word and get more volunteers to make and donate homemade blankets.
For people who want to help but aren’t able to make blankets themselves, Renner said she accepts donations of fabric — cotton, flannel and fleece — as well as batting. The local Binky Patrol chapter also accepts cash donations so Renner can purchase fabric to make more blankets.
“We’ll get to as many places as we can with as many blankets as we get,” she said.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.