Jhaquiel Reagan was just looking for a job when he walked to an interview in the snow last month. Thanks to a chance encounter with Art Bouvier, owner of Papa Roux Po-Boys and Cajun Eats in Indianapolis, Ind., the determined teen has become an overnight media star and money has started rolling in.
Reagan, 18, has told his story on multiple shows and networks, including FOXBusiness. He dropped out of high school to take care of his two siblings, and has since gotten his GED. He walked in the snow for miles to interview for a minimum-wage job because he couldn't afford a bus pass. Bouvier spotted him, and offered him a place at Papa Roux’s for double what he would have made at the job he was interviewing for.
Since then, Bouvier and Reagan have received thousands of dollars in donations, and a yet-to-be announced major donation from an undisclosed source, Bouvier says. He has received donations from about 40 different people so far, and has a list of more than 70 still waiting to call back.
“Anyone who thinks an 18-year-old homeless kid is the poster child for conservative values needs a reality check,” Bouvier says. “But he is touched to be a part of something so big.”
Bouvier and Regan have established a mentor-mentee role, he says, and Bouvier has been advising him on what to do with the cash. Together, they decided to pay it forward.
They are establishing the Jhaquiel Reagan Foundation to help other local teens in Reagan’s situation find employment.
“He wants to help others in his same walk of life,” Bouvier says. “He has decided that keeping all of the money for himself would be greedy. The foundation will help others needing help, employment, clothes for work, transportation. I’d love nothing more than the ability to sidestep the need for government programs [through the help the foundation would provide].”
The goal is to turn it into a 501c3 and have major donations to get the foundation off the ground. So far, Reagan has taken about $1,500 and gotten himself an apartment and taken care of his immediate expenses.
Papa Roux’s has also seen a significant bump in foot traffic, Bouvier says. He has also been able to hire five new workers to fill full-time and part-time positions.
“I told him to take half to use for his life,” Bouvier says. “Then to trust his paycheck from here and God to see him though, and take the rest of this money to seed the foundation and see some good from it.”