It began with a misplaced hat.
Four years ago, Corinne Hindes and Katrine Kirsebom, 11-year-old downhill ski racers, were rummaging through the lost and found at a ski resort when they were struck by an idea.
Still troubled by the memory of a homeless man they had seen in Walnut Creek with only a T-shirt and jeans to shield him from the cold, the girls looked at the mound of abandoned coats, scarves and gloves and saw an opportunity to help people living on the streets.
“We decided we wanted to take leftover clothes and donate them to shelters,” said Hindes, now a 16-year-old junior at Northgate High School.
Since 2011, Warm Winters has enlisted a network of 500 volunteers across eight states — including Maine, California, New York and Colorado — who collect unclaimed warm clothing from 17 ski resorts. The charity has distributed 10,000 items, according to the teens. Hindes and Kirsebom hope to train 5,000 youth and help 50,000 homeless people by 2019.