Header Image Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sponsoring a unique twist on holiday gift-giving: charity vending machines. The Utah-based church has a yearly initiative to “Light the World” during the holiday season, and this year’s theme is “Light the World with Love.” The big red “Giving Machines” are an effort to bring light and hope directly to people in need.
The charity vending machines operate like a standard vending machine, but people can select a charitable item from dozens of local and global charity organizations. Global charities include CARE, Church World Service, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and WaterAid. More than 40 local charity sponsors are also participating.
The charity items include clean water, produce, meals, cooking supplies, eyeglasses, vaccines, skills training and educational supplies. There are even livestock options — like goats, pigs and chickens.
Elder Vaiangina Sikahema, a leader in the church, helped his granddaughter buy chickens to go to a family in need in another country. He said it was an easy first choice. “As a boy in Tonga, we ate chicken for Christmas. So I figured, someone could get three chickens — and it’s a good price, too,” he said.
The charity vending machines have raised almost $9 million for charities since they first were unveiled in 2017. One hundred percent of all donations go directly to each charity, with the Church covering all expenses, including credit card transaction fees. Since November, the red “Giving Machines” have been available in 10 cities in the US, from California to New York and even Hawaii:
- Las Vegas, Nevada – Downtown Summerlin Mall
- Nashville, Tennessee – Bridgestone Arena
- Honolulu, Hawaii – Pearlridge Center
- Orem, Utah – University Place
- Salt Lake City, Utah – City Creek Center
- Oakland, California – Temple Hill
- Gilbert, Arizona – Water Tower Plaza
- Denver, Colorado – Writer Square
- Kansas City, Missouri – Crown Center
- New York, New York – Rockefeller Center
Elder Sikahema says that the spirit of giving is at the very essence of what it means to Latter-day Saints to be a Christian. The charity vending machines are available until 1 Jan 2022. If you live near one, consider giving it a try. After all, when people help each other voluntarily, everyone is better off.