Ralph Rotella works quickly these days, and he really has no choice. In addition to his normal orders and sales, he's been fixing up thousands of shoes in his Discount Shoe Repair store, all of which will be donated to the Rescue Mission.
Rotella's goal this year was to collect and repair 3,000 shoes, and he says he's almost reached his goal. But, his quest began four years ago on a cold winter morning. He saw a man outside his shop shivering in the snow and cold weather, and by habit looked down to the man's feet.
After gazing at the man's inadequate footwear, Rotella invited him into the store, and asked him if he was a size 10. The man said he didn't know, but as soon as the man slipped on the shoes, Rotella knew it was meant to be.
"Ahhh those pair of boots," Rotella said with a smile. "I always remember that, they fit perfect, since then, every year I've got to do something for these people."
After that first pair of shoes, Rotella collected about 65 more throughout the year. In the second year, he brought in about 300, in the third, more than one thousand. He's received checks from people ranging from one hundred to one thousand dollars, from as far as Florida to as close by as Syracuse.
On Tuesday afternoon, Monica Berdudo and Manuel Berrio stopped in Discount Shoe Repair to drop off a bag of shoes, saying they find satisfaction in reusing and donating items, and explained what they decided to donate.
"A couple of fancy shoes, black shoes that were not my size, and they were in perfect shape, so we saw the sign, we had to come for a key, so we decided to bring the shoes," Berrio said.
Rotella is working hard to get all of the shoes ready for when the Rescue Mission comes to pick them up on Monday at 10 a.m., but says he's received help in the shop from several people, willing to fix up anywhere from just one pair, to dozens of shoes.
He's overwhelmed with emotion from all of the support, both in the shop and for the people who come in every day to drop of their shoes.
"I can't even explain it...my heart goes to anybody who donated shoes," he says.
If you want to donate, stop by Discount Shoe Repair with your new or used shoes until they're picked up on Monday. Discount Shoe Repair is located on 116 E Washington St in downtown Syracuse.