Town Comes Together To Help Immigrant Donut Shop Owners

Candy Corn Donuts. Photo by Chez Cateylou

Seal Beach, California is an Orange County community of roughly 25,000 people.  Among them are John and Stella Chhan.

The Chhans arrived in the United States in 1979 as refugees from Cambodia, fleeing the violence from the Khmer Rouge.  They set up shop as donut bakers, making the treats for the local community under the name Donut City.

From there, they lived the normal lives of American small business owners, putting in hard hours and engaging with their community.  The community responded, and Donut City became a recognized shop in the town.

In October, however, something went wrong.  Regular customers noticed that Stella wasn’t behind the counter anymore, and they asked why.  John revealed the unpleasant truth to his patrons: his wife had experienced a severe aneurysm.  She survived, but she’s been weakened and must undergo physical rehab.  The labor-intensive work of a bakery in the morning is, for now, too much for her.

Disturbed by the situation and wanting to help, locals conferred with John about setting up a GoFundMe account so he would have some money to deal with her bills.  He declined, stating that he only wanted to spend more time with his wife.

That’s when someone came up with a different way to help.

Every day, around 4 AM, John cooks new batches of donuts for the day, knowing that when they sell through he will be able to go home to be with his wife.  And every day there are lines of people ready to buy the donuts in dozens.  On most days, John is finished for the day before dawn breaks.

He is providing valuable goods with his skilled labor and earning the money he gets.  The patrons get to help a neighbor in need and get good donuts, too.  Stella gets her husband by her side.  And news outlets get a little reminder that many people are generally decent.


Sometimes, when a community pulls together, everybody wins.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.