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Shoe Repair Industry Rallies to Support Springarn High School


SSIA Vice President Blase Knabl (Left) and President Don Rinaldi (right) with Washington, DC Councilman Tommy Wells at Springarn High School.

Members of the Shoe Service Institute of America (SSIA) arranged a benefit for the shoe repair program at Springarn High School in Washington, DC. SSIA members donated machinery and products to the program and Councilman Tommy Wells from the District of Columbia recognized the program's director, John "Peter Bug" Matthews.

Matthews, known as "Peter Bug" because of an old Volkswagen Beetle he drove years ago, is a fifth-generation Washingtonian who has been training young people in shoe repair since 1977. His students commit to learning a trade, keeping their grades up and performing public service. In return, they get training to help them earn a living. Last year, 10 graduates of Peter Bug's program found employment in the shoe repair industry.

"Shoe repair is a trade that dates back for centuries and faces many challenges today," says SSIA President Don Rinaldi. "One significant challenge is a shortage of training programs to bring young people into our industry. Thus we want to help the program at Springarn High School in any way we can."

Like many educators, Matthews' biggest obstacle is a small budget. His materials are old and his machinery is broken down. Students get classroom experience but need more hands-on training. To solve this problem, SSIA members donated $10,000 worth of machinery and thousands more in products used in the process of repairing shoes. Companies that donated were:

Retailers
Marcel Mrsan
Rivergate Shoe Repair
Fast Feet Shoe Repair

Wholesalers
DC Leather & Findings
Miami Leather Company
Montana Leather

Suppliers
Angelus Shoe Polish Co.
Fiebing Company
Foam Tex
JR Leather
Lincoln Shoe Polish Company
Moneysworth & Best
Petronio Shoe Products
Spenco
Tauer & Johnson
Vibram USA

Machinery Companies
Shoe Systems Plus
Landis International

"We look at it as an investment in our future," says SSIA Vice President Blase Knabl of Shoe Systems Plus, who donated machinery. "More young people learning the shoe repair trade means more business for everyone in the industry."

In addition to training shoe repairers, Matthews has a long history of community service. He worked alongside his college friend Carroll "Skeezie" Payne helping kids at Potomac Gardens and at Tyler. As part of the Roving Leaders Program, they sought to engage at-risk youth in constructive activities. He also has been involved in youth sports programs. The 400 block of 13th St. SE in the nation's capital became Peter Bug Matthews Way in 2010 to honor his community service.


John "Peter Bug" Matthews unveils the new machines at Springarn High School.


SSIA President Don Rinaldi addresses the gathering. The students seated around the table are all learning shoe repair.


Most of the SSIA contingent at Springarn High School. Pictured left to right are Jonathan Schaffer, Maria Verbruggen, Don Rinaldi, Larry Davis and Sandra Verbruggen. Not pictured are Blase and Toni Knabl..

  2005 Shoe Service Institute of

2014 Shoe Service Institute of America
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