Bank executive comes to rescue of iconic local shoeshine man
WACO, Texas (KWTX) – The community is rallying around an iconic Waco shoeshine man who hasn't been able to shine shoes since the bank lobby in which he worked closed in March because of the spread of COVID-19.
Robert Pearson, 75, has been shining shoes in the lobby of Extraco Banks on North Valley Mills Drive in Waco since September 2019 when the City of Waco terminated his contract at Waco Regional Airport where he had been a fixture for 14 years.
Business there has been good, but his signature shoeshine with a good conversation came to a halt when the bank closed the lobby.
"Oh yes, very hard. Oh man, definitely hard," Pearson said."
“I’ve never seen it like this, but it is what it is and I’m just trying to pray through it and get through it.”
His prayers came true, Pearson says, when Extraco Senior Vice President Sam Brown got creative.
Brown turned to social media and made a plea to Pearson’s friends, fans and even strangers in an effort to round up some business.
“Robert has seen his business impacted negatively by COVID-19 in a lot of ways so I simply posted the other day telling friends of mine ‘if you’ve got shoes that you want to send to Robert get them to me. I’ll get them to him and then I’ll get them back to you,’” he said.
The response has been overwhelming.
Dozens shared the post on Facebook and by Thursday morning, just hours after the post, shoes began to arrive at the bank.
When reached by phone Thursday around lunch, Pearson was already busy.
"I'm on about pair seven or eight today," he said.
"Mr. Brown went out and rescued me."
Pearson also sets up shop at the Magnolia Silos where the fall and winter months are so busy he says he doesn't even have time to eat lunch at a nearby food truck.
But the Silos also closed in the spring for eight weeks and work there came to a standstill, too.
While Pearson is now back on Magnolia grounds a few days a week, the hot weather leaves many customers without the type of shoes that can be shined so he's almost entirely depending on those shoes from the bank.
"I was stuck without any kind of employment at both places and the struggles came but I kept praying and praying and praying for better days. I knew something would happen but it was a matter of how soon. "
Brown, meanwhile is not only collecting shoes at the bank at 1700 North Valley Mills Dr. for Pearson to shine, but also has set up a benefit account under Pearson’s name for those who want to help, but don’t need a shine.
Pearson says he appreciates all the love and support from the community during such a tough time and will shine shoes and keep a positive outlook until there's no more shoes to be shined.
“What a blessing,” Pearson said. “What a big, big blessing.”
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