The sun was still climbing over the old courthouse as 12-year-old Patrick MacGregor readied his shoeshine brushes.
Patrick was back at work early Monday after Hernando County government officials approved his status as a volunteer with a local charitable organization, overcoming the county's concerns about liability.
And he was pleased.
"I like getting to know all the different kinds of people who stop and talk to me," he said. "I don't get bored."
Patrick had been asked to leave the east entrance to the government center last week because of a county policy requiring anyone doing business there to be covered by general liability insurance.
By then, Patrick was already popular among county employees. He had been shining shoes — $2 a job — for three days to raise money for a mid-July missionary trip to Iowa with Faith Evangelical Free Church in Spring Hill.
"Patrick has a great work ethic," said his father, Slayden MacGregor, the pastor at Faith Evangelical. "I have no fear of him ever not having a job."
John Callea, owner of the Rising Sun Cafe — a restaurant catty-corner from the courthouse — offered on Friday to include Patrick under the liability insurance covering the farmers market that is run by Love Your Neighbor, the restaurant's nonprofit charity.
"I've always believed in win-win situations," said Callea. "Why wouldn't I help out?"
The young shoeshiner gained widespread attention after he was asked to retreat from the bench in front of the government center.
"We had to follow policy," Cristi Charlow, the county's risk management coordinator, said Monday. "We have nothing against anyone trying to better themselves, but we do have policies."
The historic courthouse, on the west side of the government complex, sees less traffic than the government center, but Patrick was able to make $51 on Monday, said Slayden MacGregor.
He went calling on downtown businesses when customers were scarce in front of the courthouse.
"He did a wonderful job," said Mark Browning of Browning Insurance Agency, across the street from the courthouse. "I can see myself in the reflection."
Patrick said he had already amassed enough cash — between shining shoes and working other odd jobs — to meet his goal of putting $350 toward the Iowa trip.
"Now I'm saving for a car," he said.
Alison Barnwell can be reached at (352) 754-6114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.