New Year’s Resolutions are those things that most of us have probably forgotten about by now. Studies show that 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions drop them by the second week of February.
Not Jayden Bowers. Not only has twelve-year-old Jayden kept his New Year’s resolution — he’s been keeping it for the past seven years.
“I want to help kids who are hungry.”
That was the Resolution that he made in January of 2014 — just a few months before his sixth birthday. It was the first New Year’s Resolution Jayden had ever made — one that would change not only his life, but also that of countless others.
After some discussion, Jayden and his parents, Nona and Ray, decided to organize a food drive in their neighborhood. They made flyers — which Jayden signed with his best 5- year-old handwriting– inviting all of their friends and neighbors to donate two specific food items — Peanut Butter and Jelly — the main ingredients in Jayden’s favorite meal (Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches). They called the food drive “PB & Jayden Day”.
When March 31st finally arrived, Jayden ran to help his mom load the five, heavy boxes of donations into their car, and eagerly climbed in after them. When they arrived at United Community’s food pantry, there was already a line of people waiting outside the door. Some rested on the hard, wooden benches. Others stood, shivering and shuffling their feet as they tried to warm themselves against the wind.
Jayden and Nona approached the front door, just as another family was coming out — a mother and her son, arms buried under bags of canned goods and fresh produce they had just picked up to feed their family for that week.
As the boy came out into the afternoon sun, he looked at Jayden and suddenly stopped still, in surprise. Puzzled, Nona turned her head to see that Jayden had also stopped and was now chatting excitedly with the young boy. Jayden had just recognized one of his Kindergarten classmates.
“It was a very emotional moment,” Nona recalls, “to realize that someone that Jayden knew personally was in need, just as we were coming to drop off donations. Even though he was only 5, I could almost see the lightbulb go off in Jayden’s head, as he realized what his New Year’s resolution really meant.”
“Everybody says that poverty is there in your community,” Jayden adds. “But it didn’t really hit home for me, until I saw my friend there. I knew then that I needed to do more.”
So the next year, Jayden organized another food drive. This time, instead of collecting his favorite food, he decided to collect something that was most needed at the food pantry — rice. He reached out to his church — Hope United Church of Christ — who helped him spread the word. In the end, Jayden collected over 335 pounds of rice. The year after that he switched to cereal — bringing in enough to fill five shopping carts. A canned food drive the following year was also a huge success.
Then there were the books.
“One day, we were at the food pantry in the waiting room,” Nona recalls. “Jayden noticed a book shelf in the corner that said “Leave a Book, Take a Book,”. The only thing was that the bookshelf was empty.”
“Jayden told me it would be really sad if kids came to the food pantry to get food and couldn’t get a book. So he decided to do a book drive.”
Over the next two years, Jayden collected so many books that the food pantry team couldn’t keep up. His donations filled the waiting-room bookshelf twenty times over and spilled over into the back room — more than 1200 books in total.
This past year, with the COVID pandemic, the Bowers family decided to take a portion of the money they would have spent on Christmas gifts and donate it to a local charity. Jayden chose to purchase gift cards for one of his favorite annual collection drives — United Community’s holiday gift program.
When asked what advice he had for kids his age looking to get involved, Jayden replied “If you work hard enough, you can always do it. Just talk to United Community to see what they need and go from there.”
“You’re never too young to give back.”
Our food pantry continues to operate thanks to generous support from people like Jayden and the Bowers family!
If you would like to find out more about an easy way to get involved, check out our Monthly Donor Program. For as little as $5 a month, you can provide nutritious food for a family in need! Visit www.unitedcommunity.org/vine for more information!