A Rhode Island teen is being praised for his good deeds after he started buying repossessed storage units to help previous owners recover their belongings. Initially, Shane Jones, 16, started out bidding on the contents of the units as a way for him to make some extra cash over the summer. But it wasn’t long before the Wakefield teen felt that he shouldn’t profit from the items in the units. “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. 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” Shane said.
In August of last year, Shane found a storage unit auction in Providence near his home and decided to put in a bid of $100. He won the auction but when he went to visit the unit he began to feel sad as he sifted through the household goods, stuffed animals, personal mementos and other documents. “I realized then that this wasn’t the same as getting stuff at a yard sale. This guy was in prison, and his storage unit was auctioned off because he couldn’t afford to pay for it. This was probably everything he had left.”
Shane asked his parents Patrick Jones and Sarah Markey, to help him find the original owner’s mother. They eventually located the woman at a retirement home in Providence and then took a trip to return the storage unit’s contents. The woman was thrilled to be reunited with her son’s belongings. Her reaction was enough to spark Shane’s interest and inspire him to keep going.
Since embarking on the project last summer, Shane has helped reunite three families with the contents inside their former storage units. His next storage unit auctions came in October 2020 and January 2021. The October unit contained an address book, which Shane said he used to help him find the original owners’ family. “The couple who rented the locker had passed away, but there was a phone number for their brother-in-law, and he was happy to come out and get everything. He said there were a lot of family heirlooms that could have been lost” Shane said.
Shane easily found the owner of the January unit because her name was on several items. When he connected with the woman he learned she was unable to pay for the unit after losing her job and that she also lost a child to sudden infant death syndrome three years earlier. “All of her baby items and all of her childhood photos were in the storage locker” Shane said. When the woman picked up the items she started to cry saying everything she had to remind her of her baby was in the locker.
Since taking on the storage unit project, word has spread about Shane’s acts of kindness. His mother said that her son has been caught off guard by the attention of his kind acts but hopes that his story will inspire others to do good in their communities. “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. 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.” she continued.