Featured Stories

Latter-day Saint Boy Finds Joy in Donating Jelly Through JustServe

Ten-year-old collects over 700 jars of jelly for local food pantry

Maggie Gould, Ethan Vowles, and Evan Vowles dropping off jelly donations to Open Arms food pantry, Gilbert, Arizona, April 27, 2023. Photo by Shannon Vowles, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.


This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Jessica Lawrence, Church News

Serving those in need has been a passion of 10-year-old Evan Vowles of Gilbert, Arizona, for a few years. “I do a couple of service projects every year,” the young Latter-day Saint said.

It all started when Evan felt like he was “in a funk.”

“I wasn’t feeling like myself,” he said in an interview with the Church News, talking about how he felt like he wasn’t doing much with his time. “I wasn’t feeling good about myself. I wasn’t doing much, I was just there.”

Said his mother, Shannon Vowles, “He didn’t feel like he knew what his interests were. He’s not into sports or other extracurricular things; but he loves service. Serving others brings him a lot of joy.”

While looking for ways to help his community on JustServe.org, Evan found that the Open Arms food pantry was in desperate need of jelly. “I had a feeling from the Holy Ghost that that project felt right,” Evan said.

Maggie Gould, Ethan Vowles, and Evan Vowles shopping in Gilbert, Arizona, for jelly with money donations they received, April 15, 2023. Photo by Shannon Vowles, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Right after school, he immediately started working on fliers asking for donations for his jelly project. Along with the fliers, he began working on a video with his younger brother Ethan asking his community for help.

As a result of the video and fliers, Evan started receiving donations — from money to jars of jelly at his doorstep. With the help of his cousin, Maggie Gould, and his brother, Ethan, Evan set out to buy as many jars of jelly as they could with the money donations they were able to collect.

“It was fun getting kids involved,” Ethan said of his experience involving his cousin and brother. So he went and talked with his principal at Ashland Ranch Elementary about how to get kids from his classes involved. Together they came up with the idea to do a “Jelly War.”

From the competition they were able to collect 237 jars of jelly from his classmates.

“I’ve done a couple projects in the past, but this one the community was very generous,” Evan said of the experience. “I learned how generous people can be when it comes to service.”

In the beginning, Evan expected to receive about 30 jars of jelly for the jelly project — but after all of the donations, he had collected over 702 jars. “It was way more successful than I had ever imagined,” Evan said.

When asked what his favorite part of the project, Evan said: “Just doing the service. ... I like doing service. I do service for service, and I try not to expect rewards. I do service to follow Jesus.”

Ethan and Evan Vowles standing next to the 4th grade Jelly War donations at their elementary school in Gilbert, Arizona, April 27, 2023. Photo by Shannon Vowles, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

After collecting all the donations, they headed to Open Arms food pantry. “They were thrilled,” Shannon Vowles said. “When they first found out he was doing this, they called me in tears.”

Open Arms provides food for thousands each month, and during the summer months they run lower on their jelly because kids are no longer in school. With kids now at home, there is a higher demand for jelly for making sandwiches.

Evan Vowles presenting his jelly project to the Gilbert Greenfield Stake on April 16, 2023. Photo by Shannon Vowles, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Evan’s jelly drive was so successful that he was asked to present his project to his stake in Gilbert, Arizona. JustServe representatives and other leaders in his stake were interested in how they could get more kids involved with JustServe the way Evan was getting involved.

“This is an example of not only engaging youth in practical service, but in all the principles he learned,” said Sharon Eubank, the Church’s director of Humanitarian Services when she found out about Evan’s project.

The jelly drive incorporated many details that Sister Eubank was impressed with. “Finding out what is needed most before collecting, the power of a personal invitation, getting the best price, the logistics of delivery, catchy advertising, reporting back to donors, the many different ways people can participate, [and] expressing gratitude.”

Sister Eubank continued, “Most of all, I’m thrilled for an example of the power of children in the work. They don’t drive, they don’t have their own funds, and they have no political power, but they so often lead the work.”

Evan plans to continue his passion for serving others through new service opportunities. “I’m planning for different service [ideas],” he said. Instead of a jelly drive, he hopes to gather donations for other food items local food pantries are in need of.

But his ideas haven’t stopped there. Another big project Evan has in mind involves helping other kids his age know how to get involved with service projects in their communities.

His hopes for helping other kids his age get involved echoes Sister Eubank’s sentiments when she said that regardless of their lack of political power or funds, children often lead the Lord’s work in helping others.

Dropping off the jelly donations to Open Arms food pantry in Gilbert, Arizona, April 27, 2023. Photo by Shannon Vowles, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“My next project would be showing kids how easy it is to do service,” he said, adding that he has found so much joy in helping others that he wants to show other kids his age that finding service opportunities is possible even when they’re young. “Service can be super fun.”

In a video he created, Evan said: “For all you kids out there, you can make a much bigger difference than you realize.” And his advice to those his age looking for ways to serve? “Follow your heart, and reach out for your dreams.”


Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.