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Local knitting company donates winter hats for Milwaukee's homeless

Inside Wisconsin Knitwear on Milwaukee's south side is a flurry of activity.

\"It's a long process, but well worth it,\" said owner Steven Arenzon. \"It's all done by hand, with needles and chain and the machine.\"

The spinning spools of red, black and green can make you dizzy, but when the colors intertwine, the results can be life changing.

\"To see what we do and what we start from scratch and what we accomplish at the end, it makes me feel good,\" he said.

Wisconsin Knitwear has specialized in producing and manufacturing winter hats, masks and scarves for 35 years. It's one of a few knitting companies left in the country.

As many as 5,000 hats are shipped each day to companies worldwide with the 'Made in the USA' tag. But, no delivery is more meaningful for Arenzon than the those in his community.

\"Driving around the city and seeing children and adults who don't have hats especially in this weather,\" he continued. \"This is not fun and you just want people to stay warm.\"

That's why Arenzon didn't hesitate to donate 1,200 hats to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission as part of the Department of Tourism's \"Big Bundle Up\" campaign. Winter weather items are collected across the state and given to agencies in need.

\"There's a need. It's chilly out,\" said Megan Kimps with the state tourism agency. \"We brought them here and they're going to go to good use.\"

The donation is coming at a critical time in the community, as the city's homeless is trying to survive in dangerous sub-zero temperatures. Rescue Mission leaders say they've been busy providing emergency shelter for men.

\"We don't turn anyone away on these really cold nights,\" said Dan Ryan, assistant development director. \"We have our shelter with about 200 beds. We can bring out additional mattresses and even if we run out of space then, the men can still come and stay in our lobby. We want to make sure everyone is safe and warm on these cold nights.\"

\"We have collected 32,000 items to date and the program this year, just ended on the second and we already have 10,000 items this year alone,\" Kimps added. \"So we're really excited to continue to grow this program and make sure people are warm.

Wisconsin Knitwear has participated in the \"Big Bundle Up\" program since it started four years ago. As long as the 150 year old machines keep turning inside the business, Arenzon says he's ready to give back to the place he calls home.

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