Donovan Smith has proven himself to be a young entrepreneur with a big heart.
After having been nearly homeless himself back in 2011, the now-13-year-old seventh-grader recognized the serious need that homeless individuals have for basic items others take for granted.
Now he is making national waves with his community outreach program in the Duke City.
Donovan this year received a McDonald’s 365Black Community Choice Youth Award, which is given annually to outstanding youths who are doing great work in their communities.
In fact, you can see him tonight on the awards show, which will air at 7 p.m. on BET.
“It’s very exciting,” he says. “And it’s the right thing to do.”
Donovan and his mother, Casey, a former Navy cryptologist, moved to Albuquerque from Augusta, Georgia, after hitting hard times and learning about the Henderson House, a project of the YWCA Middle Rio Grande and Rebuilding Together Albuquerque. The program provides a transitional living facility for homeless female veterans and their children.
They lived there until they were able to move into an apartment.
Over the past two years, Donovan has worked tirelessly to give back, raising money for the Supportive Housing Coalition of NM, which helped him and his mother.
In 2014, Donovan made and donated more than 300 soaps to the Albuquerque Stand Down program to support homeless veterans.
Last year, he grew his efforts significantly by supporting St. Martin’s Hospitality Center. He helped feed hundreds of their clients, and donated 185 Mylar Blankets, 432 toothbrushes, 480 combs and cases of diapers and feminine hygiene products, all while filming a small part in “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
“That movie was so fun,” he says. “I was on set for three months and it was a great experience.”
In 2015, Donovan decided to take on his biggest undertaking yet by choosing to sponsor St. Martins Shower Room. He makes and donates between 600-1,000 soaps monthly. The project all started with a home-school assignment.
This year, his goal was to make and donate 7,200 soaps to the homeless. He’s currently made more than 10,000.
His mission has compelled “soapers” from across the country to donate soaps to the shelter and has inspired celebrities such as mogul Russell Simmons, Queen Latifah, Wesley Snipes, DL Hughley and others to follow and support him.
His motto is “Do what you can,” because he believes everyone can do something to help others.
“It’s amazing to be honored,” he says. “I hope that I can inspire other people to do what they can. At the awards show, I met some of the previous winners and we want to do a project together.”