Blanket Fairy puts out 911 call to help fill Christmas orders

Sue Yamaguchi of West Haven is founder and director of the Blanket Fairy Mission of Greater New Haven, a community program affiliated with Orange Congregational Church.

Sue Yamaguchi of West Haven is founder and director of the Blanket Fairy Mission of Greater New Haven, a community program affiliated with Orange Congregational Church.

The founder and director of the Blanket Fairy Mission of Greater New Haven is putting out a 911 call for monetary and/or fleece donations after unexpected surgery that has caused financial distress and time loss in her pique production season.

The mission, a program of Orange Congregational Church, provides warm, cozy blankets to more than 800 babies and children who are in custody of the state Department of Children and Families, living at Boys and Village and living in their cars. The fairy also makes 250 personalized pillow cases for those in DCF care.

Sue Yamaguchi was sidelined this year in the middle of key production time by surgery on her knee that took medical expenses out of her personal budget for co-pays, medical equipment and loss of time, she said.

While Yamaguchi said she appreciates all the donations of time and fabric from the public, the bulk of the cost comes out of her own pocket for fleece, thread and equipment maintenance. She’s tapped out financially and short 100 blankets with only a couple of weeks to go until the largest distribution of blankets, she said.

“It’s scary, but I do believe in the power of prayer,” Yamaguchi said.

Yamaguchi said she does not have a financial backer and must put some bill payments on hold this time of year to finance the project.

Sandy Kline, a church member active with the mission, said she feels it’s important because the mission brings “comfort of blankets and pillowcases to the young, voiceless children…”

Kline said funding over the last 10 years has been handled basically by Yamaguchi at a total cost of $10,000-$12,000.

“We need to involve the community not only to begin to support this important project, but to be more educated about the mission itself and how it benefits these children,” Kline said.

Liz Gesler, another supporter from Orange Congregational Church, said Yamaguchi’s dedication to the mission is “remarkable,” and unwavering, even in the face of surgery.

“It’s important to make people aware of the cost she’s absorbing,”Gesler said.

As of now, two weeks post-surgery, Yamaguchi said she has about 700 fleece blankets, but needs 100 more and is out of money to buy colorful fleece prints she needs for the rest of the children.

To reach her, call 203-464-1994 or send donations in care of Yamaguchi to Orange Congregational Church, 205 Meetinghouse Lane, Orange, CT 06477, attention: Blanket Fairy.

In the case of donating fleece, it should be colorful children’s print cut in 1 ¼ yard pieces.

Monetary donations are preferred, Yamaguchi said, because she has more buying power with fleece and discount privileges at various fabric stores because she buys in bulk.

The idea for the Blanket Fairy Mission was hatched after Yamaguchi married her husband, Bob, some 20 years ago and they talked about becoming foster parents, as Bob felt lucky to have found a good foster home as a child. But with four children between them, both working full time and maintaining a small home, it just wasn’t feasible, she said.

Upon asking herself what else could she do to give back to abused and abandoned children in the foster care system, Yamaguchi came up with the Blanket Fairy Mission of Greater New Haven.

“I had to think of a way to help children in the system. Unfortunately, I can’t give them a home, but I can at least give them the security of a blanket,” Yamaguchi said.

She started by making 75 blankets and each year the mission grew and continues to expand.

It may seem a small token for the children with all the challenges they must confront, but a personal item can carry great importance to a foster child, Yamaguchi said, because often they are forced to leave their family home or go from one foster situation to another with only a plastic bag of belongings.

Given the project’s growth, Yamaguchi isn’t able to make all the blankets herself. She has enlisted help from her best friend in Massachusetts, her sewing guild and several youth organizations such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Orange Congregational Church’s confirmation class and students at Career High School in New Haven.