By Kayla Jardine/Joe Cingrana
After experiencing what it’s like to be homeless first-hand, this teen has found a creative and compassionate way to help those in need.
14-year-old Donovan and his mother, U.S. Navy veteran Casey Wynema, were living on the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico just six years ago.
Today Donovan is running his own business selling homemade soaps, a skill taught to him by his mother who was in the hospitality business. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, that industry crumbled and left Casey struggling to find work — a struggle that eventually left her family homeless.
“I was only 8 years old when my mom and I became homeless,” Donovan says on a donation page set up by his mother.
“My mom introduced me to soap-making a few years ago,” Donovan explains of his new profession. “It was really cool to see how it bound up and came together. Soap is a science and art in itself.”
Donovan’s hobby quickly turned into a small business, selling his soaps at a local market and on the online marketplace, Etsy. But Donovan knew that he wanted to do more for his community, so he quickly began donating his soaps — and a percentage of every sale — to the same organizations that helped him and his mom when they were in need. To date, Donovan has donated over 20,000 bars of soap, thousands of dollars, as well as other items that most of us take for granted — like tampons for women’s shelters.
Facebook’s show Returning the Favor with Mike Rowe stepped in to provide Donovan with an actual retail space. Now with a storefront that means he can also hire people in need, giving them a chance to acquire skills and training to prepare them for the workforce.
Donovan is showing no signs of slowing down. For more information and to donate, visit Donovan’s GoFundMe page to help him continue his work.