WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — For Ranya Kelly, it started 30 years ago when she saw a Payless shoe store throwing away perfectly good, brand new shoes.
“I couldn’t believe that somebody would dump 500 pairs of shoes in the dumpster,” she said.
But they did.
“That was my quest right then and there that got me started,” Kelly said.
That was the humble beginning of what is now known as the Redistribution Center. Its mission is “to make sure that the individuals coming back from serving our country are taken care of if they’re in need,” Kelly said.
Redistribution Center is a nonprofit, completely run by volunteers, including Kelly, its founder and director.
Anywhere from 12 to 200 volunteers keep the Redistribution Center up and running, including 82nd Airborne veteran Brett Rossi, whose son, U.S. Army Specialist Camden Rossi, is also a veteran. The younger Rossi served two combat tours in Iraq.
“Last official combat tour they lost 11 … 11 combat buddies,” Brett Rossi said while choking back tears.
Rossi believes in Kelly’s mission.
“She’s just an angel, she helps soldiers and people see that,” he said.
Everything the Redistribution Center distributes is new. There never are used goods, foods and merchandise.
Payless to date has donated more than 700,000 pairs of shoes since that fateful meeting more than 30 years ago.