During the holiday season, Mary Kay Horney takes time off from work and starts the process of making 200 pounds of candy turtles.
She’ll spoon some chocolate onto wax paper, and then place toasted pecans onto the wet chocolate discs. She then cuts squares of caramel that she’s made, and places them on top of the pecans. Horney then encases all three elements in chocolate by dipping the combination into a fondue pot.
Horney sells the candies to raise money for her mission trips to Haiti. She is a board member of the Catholic Assistance Missions, a McHenry-based charity which helps people in Haiti.
While in the impoverished nation, Horney meets up with a group of nuns and helps with a food distribution, spends time with people who are dying, and helps malnourished babies that were just born.
“Even the poorest people here will get care,” Horney said.
“[In Haiti], if you don’t have money, you can’t get care at a regular hospital.”
Horney’s trips are usually seven to 10 days long, and she is part of a group of people organized through CAM.
Horney, who is a labor and delivery nurse at Centegra Hospital-McHenry, also uses her time in Haiti to teach good health practices.
One time, her group brought donated toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss and taught proper oral hygiene. Horney even taught a prenatal class and spoke about how myths such as putting insects around an umbilical cord to get it to fall off, or riding motorcycles to induce labor, are wrong.
Last year, she spoke to a group of young girls and mothers about the menstrual cycle and how to avoid rape.
Going to Haiti isn’t cheap. Flying to Port-au-Prince costs $800, and there is a $500 fee to cover the costs of a guide, fuel, lodging and food, among other things. So Horney sells candy turtles to raise money for her trips for $20 a box.
“For me going every year, that’s really an expense we really can’t afford,” the mother of five said.
“People are so supportive, and they still wanted to contribute,” Horney added. “It’s a donation toward our cause, and you get a gift.”
Through the candy sales, she’s able to raise about $2,000. Last year, she used the extra money she raised to buy uniforms for teachers at a school in Despinasse that CAM sponsors.
Horney, however, doesn’t pat herself on the back for the work she does, said CAM President Justin Smith.
Smith said Horney never looks for recognition of her charitable work.
“I think it’s part of her faith,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of what God said, ‘Feed my people, take care of the poor, clothe the naked.’ He didn’t say, ‘Go around and brag about it.’ I think she has a beautiful giving heart.”
She’ll also brings school supplies to hand out while teaching kids English in Haiti, Smith said.
Language can be a class barrier in the country, Smith said. People who are well off will speak either English or French, and poor people speak Creole.
“To come down to teach another language helps them get further along in education,” Smith said.
The last time she went to Haiti, Horney brought a group of teenagers to help build a house, with a concrete floor.
The concrete floor in Haiti is such a luxury because the people who live in a house with that feature don’t have to worry about mud issues.
“This quiet, humble servant does a lot,” Smith said.
Horney plans to make her sixth trip to Haiti in June to do more good work.
“They are the warmest people that appreciate ... the little things we do,” Horney said. “They appreciate everything.”