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Street Vending

Meet the TikTok Star Who Gives Away a Thousand Dollar Tips to Random Street Vendors in L.A.

[dropcap size=big]J[/dropcap]ust how many prank or meme-based videos can you handle before you start asking the more serious questions in life? 

This is the question that led 24-year-old Jesus Morales on a very diverse path from your average TikTok influencer fueled by generosity and empathy for street vendors. Born in Aurora, Illinois, to parents originally from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, he moved to the west coast to attend school and major in Business. Attending school while holding a regular 9 to 5 ob at a gym, he felt content with climbing the corporate ladder and continued with his daily routine. When his workplace was shut down, he was placed on furlough and had no idea what to do with his free time. 

At first, it was all fun and games, making goofy TikToks.” After a few of his prank videos went viral, his account started to acquire a loyal following. “I started making content at the beginning of quarantine, I gained over a few thousand followers within a few months, and I started to lose interest in the kind of content I was making…..funny, was almost forced.” 

With his interest waning in generic content, he noticed a few clips of people helping and making a difference. “I thought it was so cool that someone could use their platform for a greater purpose, and I wanted to do the same thing…” He set a plan in motion and posted a video asking for donations with a new purpose. At first, he wanted to focus on small businesses and service workers, receiving small donations from his community. Things quickly changed when he received his largest donation at $100, where a follower of his asked to use that money to feed the homeless. “So I made a TikTok and posted the video thinking nothing of it, but the video actually ended up blowing up, getting over 3 million views..” 

@juixxeWhen he said “pa la renta” 🥺 ##juixxe♬ Home - Edith Whiskers

From there, his outreach started to grow as a loyal community began to form around his account and content. He continued feeding the homeless, donating clothes, and setting up some of those he encountered in hotels for a few nights at a time. 

Seeking to keep his goodwill-based content expanding, he decided to switch to street vendors when he encountered his local street vendor and donated $100 via tip. “...he ended up literally kneeling and thanking me and thanking God. I remembered after that moment. I just knew that that’s exactly what I wanted to continue doing. Helping out these street vendors because they’re such hard workers and so humble and just grateful.” 

Jesus Morales eats an elote.
Jesus Morales.

That one video led him on his path to donating and directly giving up to $90,000 to the street vendor community in Southern California.

The number is impressive, but what's even more amazing is his commitment to his cause which is now a weekly routine. Driving a few times to Los Angeles every week from San Diego and sometimes as far as Oakland. “Honestly, I’m incredibly grateful, and I'm so blessed to have this community of supporters and followers.” When asked what he thinks of his followers, he praises and labels them as the real heroes in this story, from the ones who donate as little as 50 cents to those who donate up to thousands. “These people are really the ones making a difference and allowing this to happen. There's not a day that goes by that I don't thank God for everything that's been able to happen through this platform and through my followers and my supporters and the community that we’ve built.”

@juixxeHe thought I was joking 🥺 ##juixxe♬ Steven Universe - L.Dre

When asked what the most memorable video he’s done yet is, he goes back to a particular donation that really hit home. “We came across this lady, and she was selling tamales at a Walmart. She had her little boy there, and there’s just something about that really hit me.” 

As a father himself, donations where Children are involved are something he wants to make sure he does more. In the video that Jesus is referencing, the street vendor is hesitant to take the large donation. At first in disbelief and then refusing to reach out to take the giant wad of cash. With her son at her side and his pleas in his young voice, “Agarra a’ma..” she happily obliges and thanks Jesus endlessly.

When speaking with Jesus, you might get the sense that he has found his true calling in life. With an upcoming trip in June to South America to build houses for that local community and his dedication to helping street vendors, Jesus is well on his way to making a difference by the use of his TikTok account and his 1 million followers.

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