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San Diego man uses TikTok to raise over $100,000 for street vendors in need during pandemic

Jesus Morales
Posted at 12:22 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 12:22:05-04

SAN DIEGO — Typically TikTokers use the platform to make funny videos that often feature dancing or singing. That's what San Diego resident Jesus Morales was using the app for — at first.

"I started it in hopes of spreading joy with funny, silly videos,” Morales said.

But then Morales said his content felt "stale,” like it was missing something.

"After time, I got tired of those videos, I felt I was forcing it at some points," he said.

Morales started searching for ideas on how he could start "posting with a purpose."

“I came across other creators who used the platform to help others during pandemic and thought it was amazing, and wanted to do something similar to my account,” Morales said.

Morales began by sharing a video of him handing out dozens of pizzas to the homeless, thanks to $100 in donations from followers.

It was the perfect topping to spread his mission.

"I got 3 million views and that's what started it all," he said.

Morales then started asking his 1 million-plus followers for donations, and since last August, he's raised over $100,000.

All of the money has gone towards street vendors in his area — a community he felt needed serious help during the pandemic, and a group he feels closely connected with.

"Street vendors are dear to my heart," Morales said. "Growing up, I loved all the snacks they sold, everything. They're hard workers, most are immigrants. They don't have benefits or minimum wage, and don't really receive government assistance.”

Proof of how he distributed essentials and donations were documented in his TikTok feed.

"I'm either driving around or come across vendors, or find out they're at a certain location, and stop by and drop off a donation,” Morales said.

Morales, a Latino and son of migrants, said it finally gave the newfound influencer a bittersweet purpose to stay social.

"There's a lot of times they get emotional and there have been times I've teared up because of their stories," Morales said. "I think the reason they're so thrown off is because I feel like the Latino community isn't used to be handed things in life. They're hard workers.”

This story was originally published by Vanessa Paz on Scripps station KGTV in San Diego.