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Teen turns hobby of buying storage units into mission of helping people gain back ownership of things they lost

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but 16-year-old Shane Jones knows that it shouldn’t always be that way.

The sophomore at South Kingstown High School has been collecting secondhand items for the past several years. So when you visit his home in Wakefield, Rhode Island, you will find an assortment of antiques displayed.

Describing his hobby as “something fun to do,” Shane focuses on small things, bottles, and coins when he goes to yard sales.

“I metal detect. I like recovering things,” he said.

Typically, he buys these treasures directly from their original owner. But a few months ago, he found something else that got his interest.

Amid the pandemic, Shane discovered how to purchase a storage unit at auction by watching videos off YouTube. Luckily, he had some money saved from a job he did last summer, so he was able to buy one for about $100.

“You have a certain amount of time to bid on it,” Shane described it. “I worked last summer, just used what I got from that.”

Shane got his first storage unit from a facility in Providence. He went there to empty it out and see what kind of treasures were inside.

The teen had initially planned to keep some of the items and sell the rest, but upon realizing why he was able to purchase the unit in the first place, he quickly changed his mind.

“I realized this isn’t just something like yard sales where they gave it to me and sold it to me. This is where their stuff was taken because they couldn’t pay it,” he said.

He found mail and many personal documents in a pile, and that’s when he realized those items weren’t just junk. They were someone else’s personal belongings that they lost.

Shane didn’t have it in his heart to keep or sell the items, so he went on to track down their former owner.

He couldn’t get in touch with him, so he searched for the man’s mother, who had been living in a nursing home. Shane then offered to give her all the items inside the unit.

“It was a nice thing to do. It felt good,” he said about the gesture.

After that, he purchased another unit in Narragansett. It was from a guy’s brother he had connected with who didn’t know that his sibling had a storage unit. The items inside included some family heirlooms.

“They were all very happy, especially the guy whose brother’s it was. He tried to offer me money, but I didn’t accept it. It was something to do, and it was nice,” Shane said.

His most recent purchase was a large storage unit from an auction in Johnston. And just like what he did with the first two, he tracked down its previous owner.

It turned out to be a woman from Connecticut who fell on hard times after her baby passed away. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the means to get her things back, and most of them were her baby’s.

Shane arranged a time and place for the woman to pick up her belongings. The grateful woman then messaged Shane’s mom to let them know that she had been crying because the items in the storage unit were all she had left of her baby.

“Gratitude, really a lot of gratitude. She was just really happy,” Shane said. “I don’t mind doing this when I have the funds. It’s not mine. They didn’t purposely give it to me, so why let other people suffer as I succeed?”

Now that he has finished his sophomore year in high school, Shane plans to devote his summer to his newfound hobby and help more people along the way.

It’s inspiring to see someone as young as Shane have this level of compassion for others. Instead of using his hobby to make more money, he decided to turn it into acts of kindness.

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