LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — When the pandemic hit, 24-year-old Jesus Morales was let go from his job.
“I was working at a gym, and of course all the gyms shut down because of COVID,” he said. “So I wasn’t working, and I just had all this time on my hands.”READ MORE: Range Fire: Firefighters Battling Small Brush Fire In Sylmar From Ground, Air
He used that time to start creating original content on the social media platform TikTok. His videos quickly gained attention and the views started mounting, but Morales said he was still missing something.
“Honestly, I just felt like I wasn’t enjoying it, and it almost felt like a forced kind of thing,” he said. “It was around that time where I came across two different TikTok users that kind of inspired me to take my platform and shift it into a different direction.”
Morales decided to take his popularity on the platform and turn it into good.
“I knew that I wanted to do more for the Latino community,” he said. “I started doing more videos for street vendors.READ MORE: Beloved Security Guard Killed In Hit-And-Run In Long Beach Identified As Derrick Smith
“The first video was $100 donation,” he continued. “That one actually came out of my pocket.”
Morales started picking random street vendors — workers who often spend 12 to 14 hours per day on the streets with no promise of monetary return — and passing out tips of up to $1,000.
“For me, I think it’s just knowing what it’s like to come from an immigrant family, to know what it’s like to come from struggle,” he said. “Seeing these street vendors out here in California, I know that many of them are immigrants and they came to this country just looking for a better life.”
In less than one year, Morales has handed out more than $96,000 to SoCal street vendors.
“These are real lives that we’re impacting through TikTok, and honestly it’s a feeling that I can’t even describe to you, but it’s just beautiful because I know it’s a community effort,” he said. “It’s huge, you know, $1,000 could very well be life changing for many of these vendors.”MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Underway In Pasadena: 'We Are Down To Our Final Days Before State Opens'
And while Morales said he loves being able to make a difference, he said he is very careful when posting the videos — keeping the vendors anonymous and waiting a few days before posting the videos — because he doesn’t want anyone to be targeted due to his good deed.