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Unexpected Angels: How 3 Latter-day Saint Teens Provided Food and Christmas for Seniors in Their Community

Amy Jukes was sitting at the family dinner table wondering and worrying aloud who could tackle a local “Silver Angel” grocery gift card drive to assist senior citizens in their hometown of Prosper, Texas. A longtime sponsor of the project had unexpectedly dropped it, and as president of the Prosper Ladies Association, Jukes and her team already had their hands full with other initiatives and year-end activities.

Jukes knew the community needed more angels to step up and they needed them fast. But she had no idea one of them was sitting next to her.

Paying keen attention and finely tuned to his mother’s concerns, Jukes’s 15-year-old son Xavier raised his hand, strapped on his wings, and signed up for a challenge more often left for experienced adults. He also volunteered two good friends and fellow members of the Prosper 1st Ward teachers quorum, Quinn Hartman and Riley Ziminskas.

Xavier, Quinn, and Riley delivering gifts to seniors in their community.

Xavier, Quinn, and Riley delivering gifts to seniors in their community. Image courtesy of Amy Jukes.

“There were 21 senior citizens that relied on these grocery store gift cards to help them get through the holidays,” Amy Jukes explained. But beyond the cards, the three young men also reached out to the community to provide gifts and stockings. “The boys were impressed to make sure these seniors had something to open on Christmas.”

Like seasoned project managers, the teens spent weeks working their spreadsheets and partnering with other area non-profits including Meals on Wheels, Bethlehem Place, and Cornerstone. But rather than just gathering the donated gift cards and passing the project off to adults, the young men were committed to wrapping and personally delivering the cards, gifts, and stockings to each and every recipient.

“It was good,” Xavier said when asked about the experience. “Someone needed to do it. And we got a lot of hugs and tons of handshakes.”

The ambitious Xavier also shared a favorite memory. “One of the men asked us to come in and sit to talk. I wish we could have talked to him more. I want to go back and visit again. Next year, I will take his gifts last so I have time to talk and get to know him.”

“When the boys took on the project,” Amy playfully confessed, “I assumed my board and I would need to do most of the work, but I was wrong. It was a very long day of driving around, but they kept going even when they were starving! I am proud of these boys.”

Xavier, Quinn, and Riley delivering gifts to seniors in their community.

Xavier, Quinn, and Riley delivering gifts to seniors in their community. Image courtesy of Amy Jukes.

Even though the project just wrapped up, Xavier is already thinking about 2019. “I am looking forward to doing it next year. I want to do more Silver Angels and have even more friends help me. Next year’s goal is 40 angels. My mom thinks it's a great idea. My whole family helps out in the community and this is where I can help, too. I will do this until I leave on a mission. Then my brother can do it until I get back."

In the meantime, Xavier, Riley, and Quinn have learned that you don’t need to be the president of an organization, or a donor with deep pockets, or a member of an important sounding committee to make a difference in the world. In fact, you don’t even need to be an adult. You simply need to raise your hand, open your heart, and put on your wings.

Even if you’re at the dinner table.


Christmas jars collector's editionJason F. Wright is a New York Times bestselling author, columnist, and speaker. His classic Christmas tale, Christmas Jars, is a New York Times bestseller that will restore your faith in mankind and make you want to start your own Christmas Jar tradition.  Subscribe to his weekly columns, join him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

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