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HeartHidden Ministries conducts shoe drive for Kenya

Paulette and Ronnie Delaney pose near trash bins in the Tracetown parking lot that will be used to collect old shoes that will be donated to people in Kenya. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter/The Natchez Democrat)
Paulette and Ronnie Delaney pose near trash bins in the Tracetown parking lot that will be used to collect old shoes that will be donated to people in Kenya. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter/The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Paulette Delaney has been doing mission work since she was 16 years old, and nearly 50 years later, she hasn’t slowed down.

Delaney has traveled internationally to help villages and small towns in need, and her trip to Kenya in July 2013 showed her a new way she could help those people help themselves.

“One thing several of the pastors I worked with said was a major problem was the break down of families and the children that are abandoned,” Delaney said. “If they can’t afford children and send them to school, they end up in orphanages, or they are left to fend for themselves.”

Delaney and the HeartHidden Ministries want to help families in Kenya grow as a community through old shoes.

HeartHidden Ministries is conducting a shoe drive in Brookhaven, Liberty, Meadville and Natchez throughout the month of June.

The Natchez location is in the Trace Town Shopping Center Parking lot behind the McDonald’s on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive.

“This is one solution we are really excited about it,” she said. “We take shoes and start microenterprise ventures and ship shoes over to Kenya and give them the inventory to start their own microenterprise. They repair, clean and sell the shoes and become self sustaining, and the end result is children are not shipped off to orphanages because their parents can provide for them.”

Delaney said they chose shoes because excess amount of shoes in America hurts the environment, but those shoes could be a gold mine for Kenyans.

More than 630 million pair of shoes are thrown away in America each year, Delaney said. The materials used to manufacture a pair of shoes are created from chemical compounds that will create health hazards if left to disintegrate in landfills, Delaney said.

“We’re trying to stop that cycle (of parents abandoning children because by poverty), it takes a while, but it works and it’s nothing short of amazing to watch it work,” Delaney said. “We take all shoes any style, any size and in any condition because we teach them how to repair the shoes and even some can be broken down into raw materials and made into new shoes.”

Delaney’s husband, Ronnie, said he is happy to help his wife with her mission work.

“My wife came up with it and she explained to me what’s going on, and I said that’s a great idea,” Ronnie said. “We set up recycle cans with a ‘show drive’ sign and I would pick up the donated shoes, rubber band and tie them up.”

Ronnie said he has spent countless hours helping the cause.

“I would stay up late putting the shoes together,” he said. “Mission is her heart and she’s mine. I don’t go with her (on mission trips), but I do the work. She’s the brain of the operation. I just go out and get things done.”

So far, the Delaneys have recorded 150 bags of shoes, with 25 pairs in each bag. Paulette said their goal is 300 bags before the end of the summer.

“Clean out your closet and bring me your old shoes,” Paulette said with excitement.