Reaching out to those in the cold
The weather outside is frightful and those wandering Brainerd streets without a hat or scarf could struggle to stay warm. People who don't have the means to purchase the necessary winter items to fight the brutal cold in Minnesota are in luck. Th...
The weather outside is frightful and those wandering Brainerd streets without a hat or scarf could struggle to stay warm.
People who don't have the means to purchase the necessary winter items to fight the brutal cold in Minnesota are in luck. There is a "Giving Tree" full of knitted hats and scarves hanging on a tree in front of the Brainerd Police Department on East River Road for free to those in need. Each item includes a tag stating "I am NOT lost! If you are cold please take me to keep you warm."
That is exactly what the people behind the "Giving Tree" want-to help people stay warm, especially today as Brainerd residents may see 20 to 30 degrees below wind chills, according to the National Weather Service in Duluth forecast. The high temperature today is expected to be 8 and the low tonight is 28 degrees below zero.
Kristy Yutrzenka, owner of Utrinkets in downtown Brainerd, said she read a story about volunteers knitting hats, scarves and mittens and donating them for people in need by hanging them on a tree at a fire station in Hibbing. Yutrzenka said she thought it was a great idea and called Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston to see if the department would be interested in doing the community project.
Yutrzenka said a couple of her customers helped knit items for the Giving Tree. She said volunteers provided their own materials and her store, which specializes in yarn, antiques and specialty gifts, also donated materials and time.
"My business is downtown and I see a lot of people walking out in the cold who don't have a hat or mittens," Yutrzenka said. "It's cold outside and you know there is a need in this community."
Yutrzenka said she knows what it is like to struggle. She said her husband is disabled and they had their own financial struggles to go through. She said there have been articles on the city of Brainerd being one of the most economically distressed cities in the state and she wants to help people.
Yutrzenka said anyone who wants to donate yarn or money can go to the Giving Tree or they can drop it off at Utrinkets. She said they also are giving police officers a bag of the items to put in their squad vehicles to give to people if they need it when they are on police calls.
"I'm overwhelmed with the support we've seen already through social media," Yutrzenka said. "I wanted to stay anonymous, but people were asking to donate and I was like 'Yes you can.'
"I'm not trying to do this to help promote my business, I want to help the community."
Yutrzenka said so far they have between 30-40 hats and eight scarves but no mittens aside from a couple of fingerless mittens. She said they need to make some.
McQuiston encourages the public to not be bashful and to grab a hat or scarf if they need it to stay warm. McQuiston said having the knitted items on the tree outside in front of the station makes it easily accessible for people to come by and grab an item.
"This is an excellent opportunity for people to take advantage of the harsh winter we've been having and to come and take an item to stay warm," McQuiston said. "We don't want the stuff to sit out there, we want it to find a good home."
McQuiston said partnering with others in the community is a great opportunity for the police department to promote community policing.
"This helps promote us in a positive light," McQuiston said. "A lot of times involvement with law enforcement is not always positive or isn't always happy so if there are good opportunities where we can interact with people and have positive interactions, it is a good thing."