MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Amid tens of thousands of travelers catching flights, it’s not surprising that many belongings are misplaced at MSP Airport.

Rik Wenzel is a lost and found agent who helps manage an eclectic collection of items that belong to thousands of people.

“We get frantic calls all the time. Some of them are for, you know, passports and stuff and they’re overseas already,” Wenzel said.

He says IDs and cellphones top the list. They have a table of tablets and laptops, shelves stocked with backpacks and luggage, countless keys and a coat rack that’s winter ready.

“How you walk out without a coat on and not know, I’m not quite sure,” Wenzel said. Each item’s value ranges from hundreds of dollars to priceless.

“So now this is just as important as someone losing a purse because maybe there’s a 3-year-old out there that can’t get to bed without this,” Wenzel said as he held a teddy bear.

The TSA has its own lost and found, as does each individual airline if something gets lost on a plane, but MSP’s lost and found covers the rest, including the parking ramps, trams and even the roads on the airport’s property.

“Pretty much everywhere but a plane or security,” Wenzel said.

Nancy Fortier helps field the countless calls – while also cataloging what’s been turned in.

“Last year, I think was 8,500 items. We’ve had as high as 10,000, so we have to be very organized,” Fortier said.

Wenzel says almost half of their inventory gets returned. They’ll even open bags to look for contact information.

“I’ll get hugs and it’s nine times out of 10, anytime I’m coming out that door to hand the bag to somebody it’s a hug, maybe it’s a whole hug from the family,” Wenzel said.

Because of limited space, items are only held for three months. Private items like IDs are then destroyed, but other things share a more fulfilling fate.

“We get to donate a lot of the stuff to the Salvation Army, which always feels good, and donate them to the women’s shelters. That feels good, too,” Wenzel said.

Giving what was once lost a chance to find a new owner.

“It’s rewarding, it’s very rewarding,” Wenzel said.

Staff members say Facebook has become a helpful tool in reuniting travelers with their belongings. They’re willing to ship some items as well.

Jeff Wagner