Ralph, ‘The Shoe Guy,’ shatters his record for his shoe drive

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It takes many hands to help Ralph Rotella put shoes on the feet of those in need.

“I could never do it without you guys and all the people that bring the donations this year was unbelievable,” said Rotella, who is the owner of Discount Shoe Repair. “I never expected this.”

All year long he’s been collecting and repairing shoes for the Rescue Mission.

“We have programs in Binghamton, Syracuse and Auburn,” said Mackenzie Naum, Director of Major Gifts at the Rescue Mission. “Any of our program managers who know of a client in, so any of the people that we work with, if they need a pair of shoes. We start with them. They get the first pair of repurposed shoes.”

Before the shoes were even loaded on the trucks, Rotella was able to help someone.

“Right when I got here there was actually a homeless person walking down the street and noticed all the boxes that we had behind us,” Naum explained, “He approached Ralphy and said, ‘What are you guys doing? Can I have a pair of shoes?'”

That’s exactly how Rotella got started. Then the collections began. Eleven years ago he collected 35 pairs. Each year he wants to break his previous record. This year he shattered it with 37,370 pairs of shoes. A cause for celebration – there was live music while volunteers went back to loading the truck.

Bishop Lucia of the Syracuse Catholic Diocese as well as Mayor Ben Walsh stopped by to congratulate him. He said he feels, “Very warm and very happy.” It’s the feeling he gives everyone else.

Ralph Rotella is already preparing for next year. You can drop shoes off to his shop located at 114 East Washington Street in downtown Syracuse.

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