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Businesses raise money for ailing shoeshine man known for 'huge smile'


Gene Wiley would greet everyone who walked by with his "infectious smile, positive attitude and joking nature," a GoFundMe page says.

And now that he's been away from his post at the shoe shine stand inside the Hamm Building for nearly two weeks, those who work in the building are missing their friend and his "huge smile".

Wiley – known as "The Ambassador to the Hamm Building" – has been shining shoes in the downtown St. Paul building for over a decade, becoming someone who helped brighten the day of everyone who worked there.

Geno, as he is affectionately known, has been hospitalized since June 17 after suffering a series of strokes, the Pioneer Press reports.

"It's tough now that he's in the hospital, how quiet it is in the hallway. ... The whole demeanor has changed. That happy vibe just isn't here," Sean O'Bryne, the owner of Great Waters Brewing Company, told the Pioneer Press.

O'Bryne, who snuck in to see Wiley, 71, at the hospital, told the newspaper hospital workers have had to kick out the numerous visitors because they're not relatives.

And now tenants of the Hamm Building are hoping to help out their "dear friend." They set up a GoFundMe page to help Wiley with his medical expenses, as well as making sure his apartment and his bird are taken care of while he's in the hospital, the page notes.

"We walk down the path of life and certain people enter our lives for a reason. Geno is one of those people who is a kind and caring person. Please help us, help our friend," the GoFundMe page says.

The page has a goal of $100,000 – as of Tuesday afternoon, it had raised $2,235 in four days.

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