16-Year-Old Boy Buys Confiscated Storage Units to Help Owners Recover Family Treasures

Lots of teens look for novel ways to supplement their summer income. After surfing YouTube for ideas, this 16-year-old came up with a plan and is now uplifting people who are down on their luck.

It was only after setting the wheels in motion, however, that Shane Jones discovered turning his money-making scheme into a nonprofit venture would earn him a lot more satisfaction.

A DIY video detailing the steps for buying repossessed storage units online and selling the contents appealed to the Rhode Islander’s entrepreneurial spirit. Taking $100 he’d saved up from his job at a used bookstore, last August, he put in a bid on his first unit—and won.

Per the terms of the auction, the youth from Wakefield bought the unit sight unseen—but when he realized the contents contained a raft of personal treasures likely worth more to their former owners than for any potential resale value, the experience was eye-opening.

“I started out thinking that bidding at a storage auction was kind of like a yard sale, but now I know that’s not true,” Shane told The Washington Post. “These people didn’t choose to give me this stuff. They didn’t have a choice. It’s almost like a duty to give it back.”

A little sleuthing revealed the original owner of the unit was in prison. Sensing the man hadn’t given up the batch of mementos and documents voluntarily, with the help of his parents, Shane was able to track down the incarcerated man’s mother and return his possessions to her.

The thankful mom was so thrilled by Shane’s thoughtful actions, he was inspired to keep the momentum going. While the owners of the second unit Shane bought had passed away, clues inside led him to heirs to whom he was able to pass along a passel of family heirlooms.

The owner of Shane’s third storage auction win turned out to be a woman whose life had taken a downward spiral. After losing a baby to sudden infant death syndrome, she eventually lost her job as well. Even though the locker contained the precious keys to her past—baby items and family photos—she’d been unable to afford its upkeep.

Shane contacted the locker’s former owner, who’d since relocated to Connecticut, and made arrangements for a front-porch rendezvous at his home to return her belongings. When she arrived, she was moved to tears by the teen’s kindness.

The high school sophomore was recently recognized for his amazing good deeds with a shout-out on the South Kingstown School District’s Facebook page. While the kudos are appreciated, his mom, Sarah Markey, hopes her son’s compassion and caring actions will motivate others to follow his example.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this kid, for going the extra step, for people he doesn’t know. It is actually a lot of work that he puts into this effort,” Sarah told the Post. “And I think that part of what he has learned by meeting people who he gifted with this kindness is that putting good into the world is one of the most gratifying things that he can do.”

A simple lesson, perhaps, but certainly one we could all benefit from learning.