GENESEO -- She loves shoes.|
Jenna Decker, 15, a Geneseo High School freshman, once really wanted a pair of Australian Ugg boots, but was told by her parents, Brett and Kirsten Decker, they cost too much.
So Jenna sold sweet corn and mowed lawns until she raised enough money to buy the sheepskin boots herself.
She also learned about a January mission trip to Haiti her dad was making.
So, she started thinking that "if she had enough money to buy expensive shoes for herself, maybe she should use some of her money to sponsor Haitian school children," Mr. Decker said.
He recalled how after their family opened presents Christmas morning, Jenna went to her bedroom and returned with an envelope for him.
"In the envelope was a hand-written note with seven Bible verses about giving to those in need and at the bottom of the note she had written that if she could spend money on expensive boots then she could spend three times as much on people who can't buy shoes at all," Mr. Decker said.
She also enclosed $750, enough to sponsor four Haitian children for an entire school year.
But Jenna didn't stop there.
"Since her heart for giving back to others started with shoes, she is collecting shoes for the Haitian people," Mr. Decker said. "The shoes will be shipped by boat in early May so they will arrive about the same time we get there in June."
Jenna will accompany her dad to Haiti this time.
Because of the warm environment in Haiti, Miss Decker is collecting flip flops, sandals, canvas or tennis shoes, for women, children and men. Men's shoes are needed in size 10 or smaller, she said.
"We especially need children's shoes," Miss Decker said.
Shoes can be left at Grace Grace United Methodist Church, 318 N. Center St., Geneseo.
Cash donations to help cover shipping costs can be mailed to Jenna Decker, 23037 East 1680 St., Geneseo, IL 61254. For information, call or text Mr. Decker at 309-721-6000.
It's estimated to cost $400 to ship a four-by-four-foot carton filled with shoes from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to Port Du Paix in Haiti, Mr. Decker said.
"I think that size carton would hold about 200 pairs of shoes," he said. "It would be amazing if we had enough shoes to fill a four-by-eight-foot container, and that could cost up to $900. Those costs are only from Florida to Port Du Paix. We still have the expense of getting the shoes to Ft. Lauderdale and from Port Du Paix to Augustin, where our school and church are located."
The Geneseo congregation first sent missionaries to Haiti in 2005. It planted a church in Augustin in a grass hut in 2006, followed in 2008 by building a church and parsonage. A four-room school was built in 2011, and a campus store opened earlier this year, Mr. Decker said.
The church also created Espwa Ministries, a nonprofit organization, two years ago.
As a mission team member, Mr. Decker knew there was a "need for shoes there," he said. "I took as many pairs as I could stuff in a duffle back when I went in January. What I saw was hard to believe. There was a guy working construction, wearing what might have been his mother's shoes. They were ladies shoes with wedge heels in at least two sizes too small for him, and there he was using a shovel wearing those shoes."
Birth date: Dec. 31, 1998.
Family: Parents, Brett and Kirsten Decker; brothers, Jacob and Josh Decker, all of Geneseo.
Education: Geneseo High School freshman.
Experience: "I sell sweet corn in the summer, and mow lawns whenever the grass is growing."
Favorite Scripture: Psalm 46:5, "God is within her, she will not fail."
Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: "I always admired Esther for standing up and doing what was right in the face of evil, even if it was much more comfortable sitting down and waiting for the storm to pass over."
Hobbies and activities: Volleyball, soccer, and band.
Peak experience: "I have a strong feeling that the experience will be in Haiti this June."
Pit experience: "My grandmother died when I was 8, from dementia."
One thing I feel strongly about: "My ability in believing in who I am and setting morals that society can't break."
I wish I knew how to: Speak Creole -- a Haitian language.
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