Community gathers around Austin’s shoe shine and surprises him with a new electric bike

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A head-to-toe dapper, Phillip Wiggins has style and takes pride in looking good when he works. For the past three weeks, he has been out of work after his shoe shine cart and bicycle were stolen.

The military veteran started his mobile business “Boots Shoes & Pumps” in 2019 after going through several difficult years struggling with alcohol addiction, the loss of his wife and he almost ended up on the streets. . He was homeless in terms of the definition of the word. He was a homeless man. However, Wiggins was able to get in touch with Caritas, which helped him get back on track and find accommodation.

In September, he walked into a store in eastern Austin to buy something to drink and when he got out his cart and bike were missing. He was able to find the shoeshine cart after neighbors in the area assisted in the search, but the bike is still missing. Wiggins loved his bike because he had transformed and modernized a road bike into an electric bike.

“I’m lost and I’m stressed,” Wiggins said two weeks ago when KXAN shared his story. “Please give me a break. “

After his story aired on KXAN, dozens of people from central Texas emailed us asking how they could help this military veteran get back on his feet. They offered anything that could help Wiggins get back to work. He understood people like Mark Baldwin. He decided to start a GoFundMe to buy him an electric bike. He had never done anything like this before in his life, but he said the Wiggins story resonated with him.

“My dad served in the military, like a lot of other people, and I wanted to give back to another veteran,” Baldwin explained.

The GoFundMe goal has been set at $ 654 – the cost of the bike, shipping, and taxes. People donated $ 5 to $ 200 with one person leaving a comment saying, “I just wanted to help man.”

Fast forward to Tuesday, October 19, Baldwin and his son spent the weekend building the bike.

“I had to pay him,” Baldwin joked.

Others, including Ruthie Hanna, Eloy Fernandez, and a Caritas representative showed up at Krieg Fields on Tuesday morning to surprise Wiggins with his new electric bike. That’s because Ruthie Hanna said she wanted Wiggins to know, “Austin is behind him.”

(Photo KXAN / Candy Rodriguez)

When Wiggins arrived at Krieg Fields in southeast Austin on Tuesday morning on his own two feet, he had no idea he would be leaving on two wheels.

“I feel blessed, really blessed to be able to get back to work,” Wiggins said after spinning his new electric bike. “I am grateful for all the support from the community that I have received. “

Others, like Hanna, provided financial support. The veteran’s story had an impact on the community and the community wanted to help. To everyone who helped and reached out, Wiggins said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for having a great heart and for being able to help me so I can get back to work. Thank you, thank you very much.”

Wiggins plans to return to work Wednesday morning from 10 a.m. outside the Codependent, a cocktail bar inside The Independent near West Avenue and West Third Street. Then at around 1 p.m. he’ll be heading down West Third Street, about half a mile down the road, to Finley’s Barbershop to work in that area for the rest of the afternoon.

(Photo KXAN / Candy Rodriguez)
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