Super Bowl visitors, it turns out, were more than eager to shed all that extra winter gear before returning to states boasting warmer weather.
A last-minute effort, dubbed Pass Your Parka, collected hundreds of winter clothing items that many ill-prepared visitors to Minneapolis spontaneously purchased to protect themselves from subzero temps. Now, it's all going to homeless people in need.
"This is stuff that's going to help people," said Nancy Killilea of Edina, who led the effort.
Killilea got the idea last week after hearing that a Texan bought heavy-duty winter boots just for the Minnesota trip, but had no use for them afterward. She quickly launched the collection drive, setting out boxes at 13 downtown Minneapolis hotels, with a simple plea: "Wherever you're going, it's warmer than here."
On Tuesday, she delivered bins filled with 450 winter items — from parkas, hats, hand-warmers, winter boots and even Super Bowl jackets to St. Stephen's Human Services and the House of Charity, both of which assist people experiencing homelessness.
While Killilea guessed that half of the items came from visitors, Minnesotans also pitched in, donating items such as a leather Wild jacket, a Twins blanket and 2,182 shirts, hats and other winter gear from the Super Bowl Host Committee.
With the forecast calling for more frigid weather this week, the extra help comes at a critical time.
"To be able to have these collections helps people survive the bold north," said Lesley Chester, chief advancement officer at House of Charity. "It's just inspiring how a couple people coming together can make a movement so fast."
One woman was in tears Wednesday when Chester handed her a winter jacket for her husband. Before the Super Bowl, the nonprofit didn't have any winter gear to hand out. Now, it has 22 coats and dozens of other items that will help, Chester said. But, she added, it will only "scratch the surface" of need for 119 people in transitional housing and 350 people who receive meals there.
In Minneapolis and the west metro suburbs, shelters for single adults have been at capacity every week since summer, serving more than 900 adults. Extra outreach workers were deployed during Super Bowl week and local shelters extended their hours to help people escape the bitter cold and also the crowds.
Now, Killilea is planning how to keep the effort going, especially for the next big event in Minneapolis: the NCAA Final Four men's basketball championships in 2019.
"I just can't get over how wonderful people were for reacting so quickly," she said.
For visitors who didn't get a chance to donate items at the boxes, they can ship them directly to the House of Charity at 510 S. 8th St., Minneapolis, MN 55404 or to St. Stephen's Human Services at 2309 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55404.
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141