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Teen soap-maker gets $30K for college fund

Donovan Smith had an excellent 2017.

The teen soap-maker has been extra busy running his store Donovan Discovers in Downtown Albuquerque.

The physical space was built for him as part of the Facebook Watch series “Returning the Favor,” which is hosted by Mike Rowe.

The concept of the show is simple: to find people who are doing something decent in their community and do something decent for them.

Donovan’s fame spread after he started making bars of soap – by the thousands – which he donates to St. Martin’s Hospitality Center for distribution to homeless people. The 14-year-old managed to donate more than 20,000 bars of soap last year.

Since Donovan’s story was first shown on Aug. 29, the video has amassed more than 9 million views on Facebook.

An update released by “Returning the Favor” on Facebook on Monday caught up with Donovan and his mother, Casey. It already has more than 200,000 views on Facebook.

Rowe’s crew came back to Albuquerque in December to film an update.

Last Labor Day, Rowe reached out to the “Returning the Favor” community to purchase soaps from Donovan.

The online community showed up by placing 949 orders. This would include tens of thousands of soaps.

“I completely buried a 14-year-old kid in a mountain of work,” Rowe says in the episode. “For days, Donovan and Casey worked around the clock and managed to fill 700 orders.”

Then Rowe sent in help for the pair to fill the remaining 200 orders to be sent out in time for Christmas.

Rowe told Donovan the goal was to give him an outlet to continue to sell his soaps and save up for college.

“If you promise to keep Donovan Discovers going in any way you want, we’ll guarantee the money set aside for your education four or five years from now,” Rowe told the teen. “When I say guarantee, I mean $30,000.”

“That’s awesome. Thank you,” Donovan says in the episode.

With that guarantee, a heavy burden was lifted from Casey Smith.

“I keep putting money aside in his trust,” Casey Smith says. “Now that I know he can (go to college) if he wants to, it changes so much for him,” she says. “You’ve changed the quality of his life for the rest of his life. You’ve given him possibilities that may not have been on the table. You can’t top that.”

With the hard work Donovan has put into his business, he’s taken a vacation with his mother. He will reopen his Downtown store on Feb. 1. Orders can still be placed online at

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