One of the schools that inspired Rony Delgarde's dream to bring color to depressed communities is painted a soft pink now.
Paint, Delgarde says, is a scarcity in places like his native Haiti, Kenya and other third world countries.
"You can't get enough even to paint your home," he said the other day.
And that, he said, is why he founded Global Paint for Charity, a non-profit organization that collects leftover paint free of charge and, instead of tossing it into landfills, uses it for good.
He first organized the charity in 2010 but, in truth, Global Paint was born more than a decade ago as Delgarde road a bus from Miami to Orlando to visit his mother.
There on the highway he spied a road crew re-painting the yellow and white lines that delineate traffic, and he was appalled. Painting the road seemed like such a waste.
"I couldn't believe my eyes," he said.
In fact, Delgarde, a resident of Duluth, would soon discover that here in America paint is used for all sorts of purposes and can be found in abundance pretty much everywhere, including in many a garage and basement.
What a difference those discarded half-empty or less cans and buckets of paint could make, he thought, if he could just collect, reprocess and donate them to needy individuals, families and organizations in developing countries around the world.
Years would pass after that first sighting of crews painting the road. Delgarde would go on with his life, working as a health care consultant and volunteering in the community.
His thoughts seldom turned to collecting paint anymore until a visit to Uganda and Kenya in 2010 when he was struck by the number of unpainted schools and churches and homes he saw.
There the thought revisited him: "What if?"
Back home he shared his idea with friends.
"They laughed," Delgarde said.
No one will donate paint, they told him. It's too expensive.
He could've left it at that but his friends hadn't seen what he'd seen nor did they know what it was like to grow up in an unpainted house, the way it saps your spirit, sinks your self-esteem. Delgarde, though, had and so he called Harold Watkins, a mentor and retired director of sales at Avon.
The idea resonated with Watkins.
He told Delgarde about "A Painted House," a John Grisham novel and movie about a boy who lived with his parents and grandparents in a house that had never been painted.
In the beginning of the story, Watkins told him, the boy, a big baseball fan, was lusting over a red Cardinal jacket. By the end, however, he had matured beyond his years and instead of buying the jacket with the money he'd earned harvesting cotton, he used his money to buy paint for the house.
"I thought that was exactly what he was trying to do, to help people feel better about their lives," Watkins said. "I loved the idea so much I wrote a few checks to help him get started."
It was the push Delgarde needed to move from an idea to a non-profit organization distributing paint across the globe.
To date, Global Paint Charity has collected more than 60,000 new and used gallons of paint. For every 2,000 gallons of used paint he collects, he can extract about 500 gallons of usable paint. So far he has distributed some 6,000 gallons, including 500 to Kenya and Uganda. Just two weeks ago, he shipped 200 gallons to Guinea, where he helped paint an orphanage for children who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
Although he has yet to find a single warehouse large enough to store and reprocess the paint, Delgarde said he has been surprised by the generosity of people from as far away as Boston, Tennessee and Florida and as close as Lawrenceville and Marietta, who have opened both their hearts and purses to help the effort.
Heidi Isom of Smyrna, an avid recycler who donated 20 or so cans, said the idea of using discarded paint to brighten someone's home appealed to her.
"I just feel good about sending it to a place that will want to reuse it," she said. "Plus they actually come pick it up so it just couldn't be a better program."
Delgarde said that the charity will accept any container of latex or oil paint, regardless of the amount, age or condition.
The goal, he said, is not only to offer pride to residents in developing countries but protect the environment and relieve donors of the burden of disposing of unused paint.
"It sounds so simple but the benefits are so amazing," he said.
Global Paint for Charity accepts latex or oil paint, regardless of the amount, age or condition. Call 678-314-3521 or 855-853-7772 toll free. www.globalpaints.org.
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