Super Bowl visitors help Minnesota's homeless with Pass Your Parkas

The Super Bowl fans have mostly left the Twin Cities, but one Edina woman is learning that all those visitors left something wonderful behind: piles of winter weather gear. 

Nancy Killilea spent the day Tuesday visiting several hotels participating in her “Pass Your Parkas” mission.

Killilea came up with the idea late last week after seeing a Texas man post online that he had purchased warm boots for the Super Bowl that he would never wear again.

“I just thought we need to capture that. We need to recycle those boots, we need to find a way to help our homeless community,” Killilea said. “Everybody uses the phrase, 'Minnesota Nice.' There is nothing nicer than this.” 

Killilea put in calls across the Twin Cities. She started Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with the hashtag #PassYourParkas. Eventually, she got 14 hotels, two private airports and a restaurant willing to put collection boxes in their lobbies.

“I was overwhelmed by the response from just people who passed it on,” Killilea said. 

Her slogan is simple: “Wherever you're going, it's warmer than here.”

“I hope that people recognize that now, when they have an idea, you can pretty much get anything done. The power of the people on social media can make almost anything happen, so leverage it for the good,” Killilea said.

As she cleared out the collection boxes at the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Marriott City Center, Killilea noted that donations included much more than parkas.

“It's almost three quarters to totally full. We've had boots, we've had hats and mittens, we've had blankets, scarves, parkas,” Killilea said, adding that one site received a donation of more than 100 toe warmers.

Killilea has even received posts and calls from as far away as Canada, from people wanting to ship their winter gear to the Twin Cities to help with the project. 

“I think we’ve just gotten legs in lots of different places that I would never have dreamed of,” Killilea said. 

Now Killilea and hotel managers are looking to the next time thousands of visitors can pass their parkas, perhaps when Minneapolis hosts the Final Four in 2019.

“We enjoyed the weekend, but I know so many Minnesotans who are so glad to kind of have our city back and continue these kind of works going forward,” Killilea said. “It’s just amazing to see how much people are looking for this kind of thing in their lives and are willing to support and do anything they can to help other people. 

In the coming days, Killilea plans to count and sort all of the collected items. They will then be distributed to the homeless population through St. Stephen’s Human Services and House of Charity.