Shoe Bank Founder Has Never Outgrown His Love Of Soccer
Penny Hastings, San Francisco Chronicle – Friday, August 1, 2003
The number of soccer shoes Joe Belluzzo first collected 20 years ago filled a bag.
Now it fills his garage.
The 83 year old Belluzzo, considered the father of soccer in Santa Rosa, still greets children who trade in their outgrown soccer shoes for a larger pair at the locally renowed Shoe Bank he runs out of his home.
“If they bring in shoes to trade, there is no charge. Otherwise they cost $2 a pair,” Belluzzo said.
He doesn’t want any child denied the chance to score a goal, to stop a shot, to roam the field simply because a family may not be able to afford a pair of cleats. Soccer and kids are too important to him.
He occasionally has new shoes donated by stores and manufacturers.
The bank operates by appointment only. According to Doris Belluzzo, Joe’s wife of 56 years, the phone calls start picking up this time of the year in anticipation of the fall youth soccer season. And kids begin flocking to find a fit among the more than 300 pairs of shoes that line an entire wall.
The Belluzzo’s welcome first-timers and repeat customers alike.
Recently, a 9 year old came with her great grandmother to trade in her third set of shoes.
Belluzzo asked what size she needed and then went to the shelf and brought her a pair. He selects all shoes and returns them to the shelves himself.
Shoes have stickers on the heels to identify size, and Belluzzo ags returned shoes after careful inspection. He discards worn out shoes and often replaces old laces with new ones.
It’s a labor of love.
The shoe bank was turned over to Sports City in early 2009, a few months before Joe passed away.