Burnell’s Market is a community grocery store located in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward; in fact it’s the 9th Ward’s only grocery store, and as told in a profile in The Louisiana Weekly, thousands have donated over $350,000 for its owner’s hardships.
The market’s owner, Burnell Colton, had told his story of his neighborhood’s struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic on NPR, which inspired James Carder from Colorado, who had never lived in New Orleans, to set up a GoFundMe fundraiser so that he could donate to Colton. Word spread quickly among friends, communities, and media outlets such as the Washington Post, allowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to be donated to this small community grocery store.
When asked about the reason for his donation, Carder stated, “what touched me was he made this place (Burnell’s Market) a focal point for his community. I think his story touched the soul of America. We want to help in times of trouble.”
In 2014, Colton spent his life savings to open Burnell’s Market, a local community grocery store, where it’s stood as a neighborhood oasis. Colton, a U.S. Army veteran understands the struggles of his neighbordhood’s residents, many of whom have been economically struck by the national pandemic. Making it easier for his community, the owner now lets customers buy necessities on credit and even gives away food for those in need.
“Before I opened, this part of the city was a food desert. The easiest way to get fresh produce was to take three buses to the Walmart in Chalmette,” Cotlon told The Washington Post. “I’m running out of some things now because it’s getting so tight. I’m low on rice and sugar, but I hustle to fill this store. I say to my customers, ‘Tell me what you want and I’ll stock it’.”
In another interview with PBS News Hour, Colton elaborated on his outpour of love and duty for his neighborhood. He described a scene of him hugging a grandmother who was brought to tears when her credit card was declined as she was purchasing food for her grandchildren. Colton simply record her amount owed and send her on her way with the groceries, no questions asked.
“This is my community…I can’t turn them down because there’s nowhere else for them to go,” Cotlon said. “I found my purpose and my purpose is service.”
Obviously this positive, supportive message struck a chord with Americans nationwide, as over 4,000 people have donated to the cause and shared the GoFundMe page on social media. SCrolling through the page, many positive, supportive messages from donors can be found.
One suporter, Claudia Santino wrote, Mr. Burnell is a living example of how this country and world will be a better place if we just cared a little more for one another.”
Another, Jerry Wilkes wrote, “Burnell’s selfless devotion to his community, his bravery in taking on this daunting task, and his never back down attitude made me proud to be an American – something I haven’t felt very often since 2016.”
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