After violent protests swept through Ferguson, Missouri, in August and again in November, local business owners turned to online crowdsourcing sites to help raise rebuilding funds. They've managed in recent weeks to collectively raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors around the country.
A handful of family businesses with storefronts on West Florissant Avenue, or near police headquarters, have set up pages on GoFundMe.com, asking for donations to help replace lost inventory and to make repairs, especially necessary after the violent round of protests on Nov. 24 when officials said that police officer Darren Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, wouldn't be indicted.
“During the rioting, the windows were smashed and a bomb was thrown into the store,” Jun Hee Lee, whose parents own Beauty World supply shop located just a few blocks away from the Ferguson Police Department, wrote on the store’s GoFundMe page.
Though the building didn’t catch fire, much of the store’s inventory was stolen and the rest of it was badly water-damaged.
Lee created the site on Nov. 26, and by Dec. 10 it had more than $12,000 pledged of its $20,000 goal.
The St. Louis Forward, which promotes sustainability in the metropolitan area, has listed 19 crowdfunding efforts created to help local business owners rebuild.
Another business seeking to raise funds, the Ferguson Burger Bar, was famed for staying open late into the night through much of the protests and for food that will “tap dance on your taste buds.”
“Our doors stayed open to all! We kept the faith,” the owners wrote on their page. In 11 days, they raised $3,600 of $25,000 requested. Most of the donations are between $10 and $25, with a few as high as $100 or $200.
“Funds will be used to continue business and replace lost revenue along with inventory that has been lost from spoilage,” the owners wrote, adding that they’re also sponsoring Christmas baskets for children in the area.
Ferguson Market & Liquor earned special notoriety throughout the unrest and was one of the first businesses to be looted in the resulting protests for days after.
On the day officials announced that Wilson wouldn't be indicted, the store was looted and vandalized again.
“This time, a considerable amount of inventory was taken, display cases were shattered, shelving was destroyed, and a small fire damaged the interior of the building,” according to the store's GoFundMe page. The family-owned business is asking for help to make repairs and replace lost inventory.
The fundraising campaign seems to be working. The business has managed to raise a substantial amount of money, hitting $33,591 in just 13 days, well on track for its $50,000 goal. The “Ferguson Market Fund” page has been shared 2,800 times on Twitter and 1,500 times on Facebook.
“The store is back open,” an update posted Dec. 8 said. “Andy’s daughter is about to have her baby. Everyone is being so kind. Thank you.”