It’s not uncommon for teens to mow lawns and do yard work to earn a few extra bucks during the summer. One South Carolina teen started his own lawn care business with just that in mind. But instead of putting his earnings towards extra spending money, 14-year-old Tyce Pender is saving his hard-earned dough to help cover legal fees so his stepfather can adopt him.
Tyce’s stepfather, Eric Jenkins, has been part of the family for as long as Tyce can remember; Jenkins began dating the teen's mother in 2010 before proposing to her four years later. So when his parents started discussing the prospect of Jenkins adopting him and his 15-year-old brother, Tylee, Tyce knew he wanted to do anything he could to help make it happen.
“He's been a father figure to me since I was 2,” Tyce shares. “He's always been there for us and helps me with anything I need like homework…This is important because Eric teaches me respect, independence and what a man is supposed to be. If anything ever happens to my mom, Eric is who I'd want to live with.”
Even though the family managed to find a lawyer who will work pro bono, legalizing the adoption of Tyce, his brother, and their stepsister Tierrianna is still expected to cost them several thousand dollars. “Court is expensive,” Tyce explains. “I thought I could make enough money to pay for the adoption.” But since there aren’t many employment opportunities for a 14-year-old kid, he knew he’d have to find another way to earn the money.
“I used to cut grass with my oldest brother, and so I thought… I could just cut grasses,” Tyce says. So, the teen asked his mom for help with getting his lawn care business off the ground. After she helped him get the necessary supplies for the job—a mower, electric leaf blower, and a rake—he advertised his services on Facebook. Pender got more than 100 replies to his post, and within just a week he already had several appointments set up.
His first customer, Sarah Larrabee, couldn’t speak highly enough of his excellent service. “It went so well, he was such a sweet kid, so polite and like just so happy to be there and excited to have his first job, and it was just so sweet,” Larrabee recalls.
Since starting his business, Tyce has cut around 16 yards and already saved $400 to put towards his goal. He has even gotten an official business license from the city. “I am a real business owner at 14,” Pender shares. “This is big to me.”
Of course, his parents couldn’t be prouder of the ambitious teen. “I'm glad that he wanted to do this, and even if he really doesn't make anything it's good for him,” says his mom, Marcy Jenkins. “We’re very proud of Tyce and he tries really hard and he's got so many goals.”
As for his stepfather, he couldn’t be more touched by the teen’s actions—although, he still plans to cover the majority of the costs for the adoption. “Caring for Tyce is my job,” says Eric Jenkins. “His heart is in the right place…I’m extremely proud of Tyce. He’s a good kid.”