How is the Blue House Boutique connected to Bugleland?

By Karen Lilley

The Blue House Boutique is an annual holiday fundraiser in St. Anthony Park to support and educate vulnerable children in rural Uganda.

Hosted by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 2136 Carter Ave, this year’s boutique will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.

An early bird session will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 1. Cost is $15 for limited online tickets. For further information, go to blue-house.org/boutique.

The boutique originated with Beatrice Garubanda, a Ugandan–American who lived in St. Paul. She launched it more than 20 years ago, after returning from a visit to her home village, where she had seen children in desperate need.

Beatrice and her family had moved to St. Paul when her husband attended the University of Minnesota. They lived at Commonwealth Terrace on the University of Minnesota – St. Paul campus and attended St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church.

Beatrice made other connections with St. Anthony Park when she earned a master’s degree in theology from Luther Seminary and a master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota.

After her family joined St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Beatrice started a tutoring program there for immigrant children. They then lived in the Como Park neighborhood.

In 2001, Beatrice visited her hometown of Kazo, Uganda. Upon her return, she shared the alarming news of the rapid spread of AIDS and the overwhelming number of orphans left in its wake.

Heartbroken by the sight of countless children living on the streets, Beatrice unveiled a vision for what became the Blue House, so named because, she said, “Blue is the color of hope.”

Beatrice started a nongovernmental organization in Uganda and a nonprofit in Minnesota, with cooperating boards of directors.

In the summer of 2005, Beatrice invited the women of St. Matthew’s Church to get together to craft and learn new skills. “What if we made so many things that we had enough to sell? We could donate the money we made to help support the orphanage.”

And so the idea for the first Blue House Boutique was hatched.

Then Beatrice suddenly passed away in September that year.

But Beatrice’s crafters decided to proceed with the one-day boutique sale. They sold a few items and made a few hundred dollars.

From that humble beginning, the boutique has dramatically grown into a three-day event at St. Matthew’s.

In 2022, more than 65 crafters and gourmet goodie makers donated the fruits of their talents to sell items. Altogether the boutique raised more than $22,000.

All proceeds benefit Blue House Uganda, funding operating expenses and education. Girls now go to school through secondary level and most go on to vocational schools or even college.

The Blue House also supports education for boys and girls who can safely live with relatives. Beatrice’s vision still gives hope to children in Uganda. 

Karen Lilley has managed Blue House communications and served on the board. Linda Lopez and Tracy Dunnwald were two of the original Boutique crafters and still make the sale happen. All three contributed to this article.

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