Teen buys contents of repossessed storage units, then returns everything to the original owners

·2 min read
Moving boxes.
Moving boxes. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Shane Jones thought he was about to embark on a treasure hunt, but it turned into something so much more.

Jones, 16, lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He's always enjoyed checking out yard sales to see if he can find rare coins or other valuable items at low prices, and last summer, he got the idea to bid on storage units that had been repossessed after people were unable to pay their rent. "It seemed like something fun to do," Jones told The Washington Post.

At the auction, his $100 bid was a winner, but once he started going through the contents of the storage unit, Jones was startled. He saw that there were clearly personal items that had meant something to the previous owner, including stuffed animals. "I realized then that this wasn't the same as getting stuff at a yard sale," Jones said. He learned that the man who rented the unit was in prison and couldn't afford his payments, and Jones and his parents tracked down the man's mother in a retirement home to give her the items; she was thrilled, Jones said.

Jones was no longer interested in buying the contents of these storage units; he wanted to reunite people with their items. Once he earned another $50, he bid on a unit that was filled with treasures from a couple now deceased; he called a brother-in-law, who was happy to pick up the dishes and photo albums. "He said there were a lot of family heirlooms that could have been lost," Jones told the Post.

He wants to keep reuniting people with their belongings because they "didn't choose to give me this stuff," Jones said. "They didn't have a choice. It's almost like a duty to give it back."

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