For 32 years, Albert Lexie has been much more than the shoeshine man at the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital—he's a philanthropist who's been giving back his tips.
So far, all those dollars have added up to an impressive $200,000 in donations to the Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund, which helps out parents of sick children who can’t afford to pay. How did he do it? Two shoes a pop, one tip at a time, a few hundred dollars a week, for over three decades.
For a $5 shine, Lexie often gets an extra thank you. "Most of them give $6, some of them give $7," he told Pittsburgh station WTAE-TV. One year, he recalled, “I had a doctor who gave me a $50 bill for Christmas.” You can bet the generous gratuity went straight to the kids.
In fact, 100 percent of Lexie’s tip money since 1981 has been donated to the Free Care Fund.
"He does it because he loves the kids," said Dr. Joseph Carcillo. "He's donated over a third of his lifetime salary."
That represents a lot of shiny shoes, many grateful parents and an untold number of healing kids.
"He's a philanthropist is what he is," Carcillo added. "He's an entrepreneur."
Lexie’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2010 he was nominated by the Pittsburgh Pirates for a Major League Baseball All-Stars Among Us award. He told Pittsburgh magazine at the time, “I just like to do what I do for the kids. Kids are special to me, and I want these kids to get better.”
Lexie, who has been putting a polish on footwear since 1957, knows he’s made a difference. He told the TV station, “It’s good to be a hero.”