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Unexpected donation: 1200 hats donated to Milwaukee Rescue Mission

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A timely donation will help thousands in need in the Milwaukee area during this cold blast. 1,200 hats arrived at Milwaukee Rescue Mission on Wednesday, January 7th. It was a sight that warmed the heart on this bitter cold day, as bags and cartons full of thousands of hats arrived at the shelter.

"We were just blown away it, was far more than we expected," said Dan Ryan, the development director with Milwaukee Rescue Mission.

A donor put out the call this week that the shelter was in need of cold weather gear. Then, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism called with the good news.

"They said they would have the warehouse ready, they were very energetic," said Megan Kimps, a spokesperson for the Department of Tourism.

It's all because of The Big Bundle Up, a statewide campaign to collect winter items and distribute them to those who need them the most.

"We love to spread the love, we have never given to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission," said Kimps.

The shelter is trying to outfit all of their residents with winter gear, but that adds up to a lot of people. The shelter reached its full capacity of 250 this week. They are making room where they can now, and are not turning anyone away. Now, everyone will have a hat.

"Knowing that they are taken care of especially on such cold days, it means a lot to them and it is great to see," said Ryan.

The hats are all made by the Milwaukee based company Wisconsin Knitwear, and they come in all different colors and in all different sizes. But giving a homeless person a hat, could open the door to a better future.

"It extends an opportunity for us to build a relationship with them," said Ryan.

Then, through structure and programs, hopefully the shelter can get people out of homelessness, and employed.

"These hats--it's an immediate need but it is also part of bigger work that we do in helping these people long term," said Ryan.

The Big Bundle Up campaign is on pace to collect more than 10,000 items this year alone. They will be distributed across the state.