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Tyler Perry pays grocery bills for elderly and high-risk shoppers at 73 stores in Atlanta and New Orleans

Tyler Perry surprised elderly shoppers and others who are high-risk at dozens of supermarkets by paying off their grocery tabs. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores around the United States have been opening early for seniors to help them avoid large crowds.

The entertainment mogul paid off bills at 73 stores — 44 Kroger supermarkets in his hometown, Atlanta, and 29 Winn-Dixies in New Orleans — during the hour dedicated for vulnerable customers on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of people who are really, really struggling right now and underprivileged and I wanted to go to the heart of where we are and what we need," Perry told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King in a clip of an interview airing on Friday.

In a statement to CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL-TV, Kroger's corporate affairs manager, Felix Turner, called it a "pleasure to see our customers fill with joy and gratitude."

"We would like to join our customers in thanking Mr. Perry for his kindness and generosity during this unprecedented pandemic," Turner said.

In New Orleans, Winn-Dixie shoppers were delighted to find out about Perry's surprise. They received a slip of paper that read: "Random act of kindness. Present to cashier before 8 a.m." Video shows them shocked and left smiling after learning their bills were covered.

"She finishes and says 'Oh, I want to let you know you don't owe a thing. Tyler Perry is paying for your groceries this morning.' I almost died!" shopper Elizabeth Hunter told CBS New Orleans affiliate WWL-TV. "You hear about these things, but you never expect for it to happen to you."

"We walked in and the manager just had this huge grin on his face when he was handing out these pieces of paper," Erin Cowser, another customer, told the station.

Perry, meanwhile, was mourning the loss of a crew member who had worked with him for many years. He emphasized how coronavirus is disproportionately impacting African Americans and stressed the importance of social distancing.

"STAY HOME!! Socially distance yourself and stay alive! If you won't do it for yourself, do it for someone you love, and for those who love you," she said. 

"My Mother always told me to not wait for help! Be your own help!" he added. 

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