A Rhode Island teen with a passion for collecting pre-owned objects has found a way to use his hobby to help others.
For Shane Jones, 16, from Wakefield, collecting secondhand items is “just something fun to do,” he says. He’s handy at using a metal detector to recover small items—bottles, coins, and other small trinkets—and likes visiting yard sales.
While housebound during the pandemic, the South Kingstown High School sophomore started researching storage unit auctions, compelled by the idea of the treasures he might find.
Using money saved from his summer job the year before, he bought his first unit for around $100 from a facility in Providence.
At first, he hoped to sift through the contents, choose his treasures, and sell the rest. But upon opening the unit, the teen was struck by a heart-rending reality.
“I realized this isn’t just something like yard sales where they gave it to me and sold it to me,” he explained. “This is where their stuff was taken because they couldn’t pay it.”
Jones came across mail and personal documents, and took no joy in claiming what others would have, under better circumstances, kept and not discarded.
This did, however, afford him an opportunity to claim a reward of a different kind.
Finding names, the teen managed to track down the family of the unit’s original owner, and eventually connected with the owner’s mother, a nursing home resident—who was happy to receive the items that had belonged to her son.
Feeling uplifted by the kind act, Jones purchased another unit from Narragansett, and managed to connect with the previous owner’s brother.
It contained family heirlooms that the man had no idea his brother had been storing. Grateful, he tried to offer money for Jones’s trouble. “I didn’t accept it,” he said. “It was something to do, and it was nice.”
Jones’s most recent purchase—the most touching of all—was a large unit in Johnston, containing items that once belonged to a woman from Connecticut who’d lost her baby. After the tragic loss, she’d lost access to the unit, and all its contents.
“Most of the stuff was baby stuff,” Jones said.
“I don’t mind doing this when I have the funds,” he added of his kind venture. “It’s not mine. They didn’t purposely give it to me, so why let other people suffer as I succeed?”
After reclaiming her once-lost memories, the bereaved woman messaged Jones’s mom, Sarah, to express her gratitude.
“You don’t even know … how much it means to me to actually be able to get it and not have lost it,” she texted, adding that her daughter died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) three years earlier.
“You literally brought me to tears,” she added. “God has a special place saved for him.”
Now, having finished off his sophomore year, Jones plans to devote his summer to his new, rewarding hobby—and hopefully reclaim a few more cherished memories for their former owners.