ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fourteen-year-old Donovan Smith has seen the face of homelessness – and it looks a lot like him. That’s why he is giving back.
In just the past year, Donovan made and donated 10,329 bars of soap to homeless shelters and organizations that help the homeless. Since 2014, he has made and donated more than 50,000 bars of soap.
Several years ago, he and his family were homeless and found refuge at Henderson House, an Albuquerque shelter for homeless women veterans and their families operated by the YWCA.
“I’ve seen what homelessness looks like and it’s not always a problem with drugs or anything else,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s just normal people who are having a hard time, so I try to help as many people as possible and be an example for others.”
On Tuesday, Donovan was among a group of people who were honored at the Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service held at the Albuquerque Convention Center before a crowd of about 500 people. Speaking at the event, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry noted that he was one of thousands of mayors around the country this day who were acknowledging the spirit of volunteerism in their communities and who were formally thanking people for taking on challenges, improving lives and helping solve local problems.
Donovan, who received the award for Youth Volunteer of the Year, has also helped fill other needs in the community by donating hygiene products, Mylar blankets, clothing, diapers and more to area homeless shelters and organizations.
On Monday, Donovan started a GoFundMe campaign to raise start-up money for his own non-profit organization, “Soaps for Homeless.” He hopes to hire homeless people and teach them how to make soap, which in turn will allow him to continue donating soap to other non-profits. Volunteers were recognized in a host of other categories:
Volunteer Group of the Year, Albuquerque Department of Senior Affairs Companion Program, which since 2016 has provided 21,145 hours of service valued at more than $498,000, and logged more than 8,600 miles on personal vehicles, running errands and checking in on less mobile seniors.
Corporate Group of the Year, Molina Healthcare volunteers, for donating 6,422 hours collectively to Ronald McDonald House, where they served as guest chefs providing nutritious meals to families who are dealing with hospitalized children.
Rising Star, Morgan Cannaday Henson, a volunteer from Heading Home, who donated hundreds of hours in various services to the homeless, including serving meals at shelters, wrapping and delivering holiday packages to families, and helping organize Heading Home fund raisers.
Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Agnes Sanchez, a foster grandparent volunteer who tutors children at Kit Carson Elementary School and helps her South Valley neighbors by translating for them when they need to apply for programs and benefits; and posthumously to Jim Caress, for his volunteer custodial and maintenance work at the Ronald McDonald House.
Volunteer of the Year, Van Overton, for his work on behalf of Albuquerque Public Schools Title 1 homeless project, and organizing a program of music, poetry and dancing that raised donations of food and clothing for homeless APS kids.
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