By Robert Schiff SYRACUSE, N.Y. – (NCC News) – Local cobbler Ralph Rotella makes a living repairing shoes. Over the last 40 years, Rotella’s Discount Shoe Repair has become a well-known spot in downtown Syracuse. Although customer repairs are what keep business afloat, Rotella’s primary focus is the people who can’t afford to put shoes on their feet. His concern is for the homeless who don’t have shoes for the Winter.
“In the Winter time, people need boots,” Rotella said. “It’s so cold around this part of the country. If you don’t have warm feet, it is pretty bad.”
For the last six years, Rotella has been collecting shoes from customers, as well as passersby just looking to help those in need. If the shoes are damaged, Rotella repairs them, and has them sent to The Rescue Mission, a local organization whose primary focus is helping the homeless population here in Syracuse. Rotella started with 65 pairs of shoes a few years ago. Last year he collected 12,000 pairs. This year’s goal is 15,000 pairs of shoes.
“We can do it, ” Rotella said. With more than 11,000 pairs collected so far this year, Rotella is well on his way to reaching his goal by the end of the year.
Kendall Slee, the Communications Specialist at The Rescue Mission, is very familiar with Rotella’s contributions to the community.
“It has been a great partnership,” Slee said.
John Marzocchi has known Rotella for 31 years. Marzocchi has watched Rotella put in years of hard work and dedication, ensuring that as many locals as possible are warm during the cold Winter that lies ahead. “That’s what he is known for,” Marzocchi said. “He has been doing it for years. He does it all by himself.”
With Winter approaching, Rotell’a purpose is to help as many people in the community as he can. “I feel like an angel from heaven,” Rotella said.