Warm Hearts, Warm Hands; Local group works to provide mittens, hats for those who need them

Published 8:03 am Tuesday, December 11, 2018

December is a year of holiday warmth, but a devoted group in Austin are helping ensure that warmth spreads.

Gift of Warmth is an initiative by a small group of volunteers who are doing their part for people in need of warm clothing. On Saturday morning, the group hung mittens and hats from the fence at the top of Skinner’s Hill where, if people needed clothes for the winter, they could get them free of charge.

Volunteers who helped hang up the clothing items for Hands of Warmth at Skinner’s Hill Saturday morning. Photo provided

This is the second year of the effort, spearheaded by Deb Hulet and Connie Adams, who work at Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Austin. The idea started with a simple observation.

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“Last year, at work, a gentleman came in during a blizzard,” Hulet said. “Wearing sandals, not gloves, no winter coat. He was not prepared for Minnesota winter.”

That night, on the way home from work, Hulet started thinking about possible ways to help and eventually struck upon the Gift of Warmth project.

Mittens hang from the fence at the top of Skinner’s Hill Saturday morning, part of the Gift of Warmth initiative. The mittens, along with other articles of clorthing, were free to those in need. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“We just did something on Facebook and then decided to hang them at Skinner’s Hill and give them away for free,” Hulet said.

A little over 200 items were given away last year. This year, that number jumped to over a 1,000 pieces.

“The donations just kept pouring in,” Adams said. “We kind of lost count after awhile.”

This year, the small group got help from several businesses, including International Paper, that made the boxes for businesses to take donations.

The effort reached through Sunday afternoon. Despite the short amount of time from when they were first hung early Saturday morning, Hulet said they wouldn’t be there long. As long as they went to someone truly in need, Hulet said the group would be happy.

Volunteers begin hanging mittens and hats as part of Hands of Warmth Saturday morning at Skinner’s Hill. Photo provided

“Last year a child picked that one thing and they were so happy,” Hulet recalled. “And then she asked, ‘Can I pick one for my mom.’”

“It’s stories like that,” Adams agreed.

The group is showing no signs of stopping, with a goal of extending the amount of items next year to the end of the fence and maybe start on the other side.

“There’s two sides to every story,” Hulet said, laughing.

“The joy is overwhelming,” Adams said. “It’s hard to explain but the generosity makes your heart burst.”