NEWPORT, Ky. — A social media post from a local food truck owner encouraged a community to help a local man go from down on his luck to starting his own business.
For nearly five months Ty Velez of Aj’s Cheesesteaks watched Willie Coleman as he panhandled in the BP gas station parking lot in Norwood where Velez's food truck is located.
“We would often talk and sometimes he would often stop by and ask for work so he could make some money,” said Velez.
Velez said one day he asked Coleman what he wanted to do with his life.
“He said he wanted to start his own business,” said Velez. “I know Willie struggles, I’ve been there before. I understand. There are a lot of people in his shoes.”
Velez gave him $40 to buy equipment for a car detailing business Coleman named Willie’s Whips. Velez also made a post on his food truck Facebook page asking the community to get their cars detailed with Coleman.
Velez said the post went viral, shared more than 4,000 times from his personal page.
“We have people all across the country now asking how can they help Willie,” he said.
The post caught the attention of Prime Detail Supply, which donated custom-labeled detailing products for Willie to use in his business. Someone in Columbus donated a shop vac.
“That just touched me, that's a blessing,” said Velez. “It shows the power of what people can do when they come together to help somebody, especially somebody like Willie, who doesn’t want a hand out. He just wants to work, he wants to make something happen for himself and I understand. I can relate to that.”
Coleman said he was shocked by all of the generosity.
“Its a blessing,” he said. “It took this long for people to see me. Because I usually be up here panhandling change, just trying to make it. I feel seen thanks to him."
Currently Coleman details the inside of vehicles but he’s working on getting access to water so he can detail the full body of a vehicle.