WTAJ Originals: A sneaker drive for natural disasters

Local News

In 2006, an Elk County man started an annual sneaker drive.

He’s since collected thousands of sneakers for those impacted by natural disasters.

On any typical afternoon at DD’s Specialty Bakery & Cafe in St. Marys, you’ll find Albert Assalone.

“This is like a home to me here,” Assalone said.

He’s one of the regulars.

“I usually have a hotdog, applesauce, and a cup of coffee with Splenda,” Assalone said.

But he’s not a regular guy.

“He’s a special guy and we kind of look out for our special people who come in.”

-Andrea Huber, DD’s Manager 

In 2006, Assalone had his hip removed and was told he could no longer go on mission trips.

“I got wheelchair bound and it was rough,” Assalone said.

So his pastor at Shiloh Presbyterian Church asked him to come up with a project.

He decided to collect sneakers for those affected by the disasters he used to help.

“It’s been really a blessing to me. It made my spirits go up, I don’t feel so down anymore,” Assalone said.

Since then, he’s collected thousands of pairs and sent them to numerous communities.

“First time we did this it was hurricane Katrina. Then we did the hurricanes thereon. Harvey, Micheal, Rita, hurricane Sandy.”

When his second family at DD’s heard about the project, they stepped in to offer the community a second donation site.

“He struggles with a lot of his own life, but he’s always willing to help other people, which is a great thing to see. It’s always nice to see other people helping other people.”

-Darlene Distler, DD’s owner 

“That’s what this is really about, showing the love about Jesus Christ, that we get their spirits up like ours are,” Assalone said.

One pair of sneakers at a time.

Sneakers can be dropped off at The Shiloh Presbyterian Church, C.E.C. Building 217 Washington St., or DD’s Specialty Bakery & Cafe. 31 Erie Ave. all in St. Mary’s, Pa. 15857 now until April 30, 2019.

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