Jax Logan O’Connor was living with his mom and her parents in Prescott when they came down with COVID. While they were recovering, he went to stay with his grandmother, TamaraLynn Tadano, his father’s mother, in Phoenix. At the time she was busy making soap to distribute to the homeless.
“He saw what I was doing and asked if he could help and from there he just took over,” says TamaraLynn. Five-year-old Jax has since gone on to take adult classes to learn hot and cold processes to make soap and he’s now adept at using lye, water, and oils to make soap.
Jax and his grandmother started packaging the soap in gift bags and distributing the bags to Phoenix homeless. “He has a real intuition on if a person is open and friendly, or not,” says his grandma, who never lets Jax out of her sight when they visit homeless encampments. She’s also quick to point out that she always makes the initial contact.
“If the person isn’t friendly or doesn’t want attention, Jax will leave the bag at their tent, or by a bush where they’re camped out. If they’re open and excited about it, he’ll just go over, chat, and love on them,” she says.
Many of them say, “‘Oh, I’m dirty,’” TamaraLynn explains. “A lot of them aren’t used to anyone being near them or anyone recognizing them as human.” Jax’s enthusiasm and openness at giving them soap he’s made usually puts a huge smile on the faces of the homeless he visits.
Recently, Jax and his grandmother have been partnering with U.S. Vets, an organization that provides housing, workforce development, and case management serves for veterans transitioning from homelessness to housing. Jax has worked on three events for the organization and in the process made 185 bars of soap for the veterans who are staying in U.S. Vets’ transition facility.
“It’s a safer environment and he’s reaching a lot more people,” says TamaraLynn of Jax’s involvement with U.S. Vets.
“We have a lot of veterans in our family,” she says. Helping others runs in the family too. Jax’s dad is a veteran and lives in Prescott, where he’s starting a non-profit to open a ranch for homeless veterans to offer horse therapy and a place to heal and get job skills.
It’s not making the soap that appeals to Jax, according to TamaraLynn. “One time I said to him, ‘Why don’t we make some fun soap just for you. He made three bars and stopped. He didn’t want to do it just for fun.” Jax also doesn’t want to sell the soap, according to his grandma. “He makes it to give to people. He just has this innate desire to help others and put a smile on their faces.”