Moral Low Ground

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Crowdfunding Helps Ferguson Small Businesses Rebuild

Natalie's Cakes and More owner Natalie Dubose has received an outpouring of support via the crowdfunding site GoFundMe. (CNN screen grab)

Natalie’s Cakes and More owner Natalie Dubose has received an outpouring of support via the crowdfunding site GoFundMe. (CNN screen grab)

Small businesses in Ferguson, Missouri have suffered millions of dollars in damages resulting from the civil unrest which followed the Michael Brown shooting. But many of them have received a welcome rebuilding boost thanks to crowdfunding websites.

While most demonstrators protesting the deadly August shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown and the subsequent decision by a grand jury not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson have been peaceful, a violent minority rampaged through the St. Louis suburb causing widespread destruction. Businesses in central Ferguson have been vandalized, looted and even burned to the ground.

But thanks to crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe.com and indiegogo.com, more than $1 million has been raised to help Ferguson small businesses rebuild, St. Louis Business Journal reports. GoFundMe prominently features a “Help Ferguson Rebuild” page, featuring fundraising campaigns benefiting some two dozen local small businesses.

Leading the crowdfunding pack on GoFundMe is Natalie’s Cakes and More, which has received over $268,000 from more than 8,200 online donors. Owner Natalie Dubose, a single mother of two, was devastated to discover the business in which she had invested all her money, time and energy had been vandalized following the grand jury decision to clear Wilson.

Despair turned to hope and jubilation once the donations started pouring in via GoFundMe.

“I am just so grateful for all the love and support that’s been showed to me,” Dubose told CNN Money. “I think I cried so much, I shouldn’t have any more tears.”

Juanita Morris watched her Ferguson store, Fashions R Boutique, burn down on live television. A freshman at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill then set up a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $20,000 to help Morris recover and rebuild. As of Thursday afternoon, more than $21,000 had been raised by 658 different donors.

“I would like to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart,” Morris wrote in a message to her donors. “It’s nice to know that there are people out there like you. All of your support and well wishes has truly made a difference in my life.”

GoFundMe spokeswoman Kelsea Little called the outpouring of support “heartwarming.”

“The many recent campaigns started for Ferguson business owners are shining examples of what can happen when communities come together for a common cause,” Little told the Washington Post. “It’s incredibly heartwarming to see so many generous people come together to help these businesses rebuild.”

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