PARIS, Tenn. (WKRN) – Small businesses across the country are struggling to pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Barstool Sports owner Dave Portnoy took action by starting an online fundraiser with $500,000 of his own money.
“I was in New York when they shut down indoor dining. I didn’t know how these businesses were going to survive. They’ve already been hanging on by a string and then this,” Portnoy said. “I ranted, I raved, which I am prone to do. Someone said ‘put your money where your mouth is’ and I’m like you know what? You’re right.”
In less than a month, he’s collected nearly $28 million to help small businesses. One of those being Sweet Jordan’s Bakery owned by Tommie St. John in Paris, Tennessee.
“We opened Sweet Jordan’s in September of 2017, and in 2018, we opened the coffee shop side of it.” St. John continued, “We have just right at 30 special needs individuals who work here at Sweet Jordan’s. Our son Jordan, who we named the placed after has down syndrome. He is 30 now and will be 31 in May. He is the inspiration for all of this.”
St. John told News 2 they were struggling to make payroll in the pandemic. “When COVID hit it was just really hard to make everything work. I was at the end of my ropes last week. We totally had to pivot and figure out how we were going to keep our special team members safe. A lot of them already have existing health issues.”
St. John said it was difficult to see their vision for Sweet Jordan’s change.
“COVID has caused us to lose sight about what Sweet Jordan’s is supposed to be about. It’s that people get to experience these special people in their world, and they don’t understand and don’t even want any part of the fast paced world that we live in.”
St. John said things became more challenging when The Tennessee Revenue called.
“She had given me the date it needed to be paid by, our sales tax, and I said you know I don’t have that. So I am literally going to get in my closet and pray for a miracle.” She got her miracle when her sister texted her telling her about the Barstool Fund.
“I literally got on my phone and filled out the application for Barstool Fund.” About a week later, as she was leaving the bank, St. John got the surprise of a lifetime.
“It said video call, and I hit the button, and it was Dave. I was like are you kidding me? I just said God I need you to show up! I got the call on Thursday, and he wired the money on Friday. And I just cant even believe this is happening.”
The money from the fund covered all of Sweet Jordan’s bills. Portnoy said he’s just glad they found them in time.
“I keep saying no amount is enough. So many businesses need help. I am way more focused on continuing to raise money and continuing to get it when they need it. She’s doing such a great thing, and the fact that nobody had stepped up before, it’s like what are we doing here? I am glad we found them because there was nobody better than them,” Portnoy exclaimed.
“The whole tapestry of seeing how God has put this together. It can only be his grace and love. This place is his. This isn’t a one and done, it’s a monthly thing they reassess your needs and keep sending money until you don’t need it anymore. Dave’s doing that with all of the different places,” St. John said.
St. John said the bakery has received more than 700 orders since the news came out, and she has a piece of advice for others facing hard times. “Be transparent in life and let people know the struggles you are going through. People want to be helpful and kind and loving and just trust the good intentions in life and go give to Barstool Fund.”
Portnoy encourages people to give any amount they are able to.
“Every dollar matters. It doesn’t matter how little. If you’re a business who is struggling and needs help you can fill out the paperwork. We do turn it around pretty quick. Everything you need is in that one spot BarstoolFund.com and we are going to keep doing this until the country opens up and things go back to normal or the government steps in and helps these places out.”
If you would like to donate to the fund, click here.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.