Albert Lexie was a nice man with a lovely hobby. He spent his free time every week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, shining shoes at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He would then donate his tips to pay for the medical bills of children in need of care but whose families could not afford it.
He charged only $3 per shine, but he was able to donate more than $200,000 to sick children who were uninsured or underinsured over the course of 30 years. This enabled countless children to receive desperately needed medical care.
Beginning in 1982, Albert started riding the bus to the children’s hospital in Monessen, Pennsylvania in order to shine shoes for donations. The bus ride is a little over 2 hours each way, but the kind Albert didn’t mind it, and he would leave his house at 5:50 am in order to be at the hospital during their busy hours.
Albert earned less than $10,000 each year from shining shoes, and he sent his tips to the Free Care Fund which helps disadvantaged children cover their medical costs.
“I think Albert is a symbol of philanthropy and generosity,” said the hospital president Chris Gessner. “He’s the kind of special person that people hope for in the world.”
The hospital staff loved Albert’s cause and they loved supporting him. When Chris first met Albert 18 years ago, he was walking through the hospital and noticed a large number of people without their shoes on.
“I noticed half the people were all without shoes. When I asked what was going on, they said, ‘It’s Albert. He’s out in the hallway cleaning shoes.’” Chris said.
“He was singularly focused on helping sick kids. He stuck to business. He was a personably, happy man, but he was very focused on shining shoes to help the kids.”
The public began to recognize Albert and support him in his humanitarian mission. Albert received the Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Citizen in 1997. The Association of Fundraising Professionals honored him with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award in 2001. The Caring Institute presented him with the National Caring Award in 2006, and in 2010, Albert was one of 30 honorees in Major League Baseball’s “All-Stars Among Us.”
His hometown even declared an “Albert Lexie Day” in 1999, and the Port Authority of Allegheny County gave him a lifetime bus pass to help him get to and from the children’s hospital.
Albert passed at the age of 76, but his legacy of compassion for helping children receive the medical care they need has touched the hearts of millions. He taught us that when we use a bit of our free time to help those in need, we can make a beautiful difference in the world.
Watch the following video of Albert and his passion to help disadvantaged children: