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Holiday Food Drive 2023

With massive inflation caused by the government printing more money, it’s become difficult for people to take care of themselves, let alone be able to help others. Nevertheless, we received about $200 in donations to our Holiday Food Drive. Rather than divide it up, we gave your donations to a family who has been suffering acutely. Their story is below. 

In May of 2023, Miss Stacey’s young daughter was diagnosed with a diffused midline glioma. DMG is a very aggressive, rare tumor that typically occurs in young children, and is considered terminal if it cannot be removed. Unfortunately, this tumor has been deemed inoperable due to its location near her brain stem. Since being diagnosed, she has completed one round of radiation which was 5 days/week for 6 weeks.

 While receiving radiation, her doctors worked hard to see if she would qualify for a clinical trial that, if successful, would allow important medication to cross the blood-brain barrier and attack her specific type of tumor. Even though she didn’t meet the age requirement to participate in the trial, Miss Stacey remained hopeful as they waited for a decision to be made. Shortly after completing radiation, Miss Stacey was told that her daughter was 1 of 3 children across the country who were accepted into this trial. 

The clinical trial would require her daughter to receive a series of 8 “vaccines” that would be administered once every two weeks. While the trial study has come to a close, her battle with DMG is far from over. The tumor has grown slightly since its original measurement post-radiation, but it has not grown throughout participation in the trial study. The hope is that this new treatment will prevent further growth of the tumor but continued monitoring is required to ensure that any change in size is attacked with additional radiation as long as her little body can manage the treatments. 

Throughout all of her appointments and treatments, Miss Stacey worked hard to maintain normalcy for her family, especially her young son. She talked to her son about her daughter’s illness but knows that he doesn’t quite understand the seriousness. Because of this, she continued to take her son to his soccer and baseball games, ensuring she spent time with friends and family, taking turns having special 1 on 1 outings with him and doing everything to keep his routine as normal as possible.

 Miss Stacey and her husband alternate their time away from work but both of them have needed a significant drop in work hours to spend time together as a family and ensure Abbey is at every appointment. Stacey is currently working through intermittent FMLA and her husband is about to head into snow plowing season, which he does during his offseason from construction work.

Thank you so much to everyone who donated to our Holiday Food drive for helping provide Miss Stacey’s children with a wonderful Christmas while taking the planning and financial strain away from Miss Stacey and her husband.

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Charity Vending Machines

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.

Donors choose items at the Giving Machine in Denver, Colorado, on November 3, 2021. Image copyright by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

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 
charity vending machines
Kansas City Chiefs mascot KC Wolf helps open the Giving Machine at Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 30, 2021. Image Credit: Valerie Anderson for Church News

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.

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A Very Voluntary Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite Christmas stories. The classic tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s redemption from heartless miser to generous philanthropist is a holiday staple. It’s affected culture so much that the word “Scrooge” is synonymous with a greedy or cold person—or one who just doesn’t like Christmas.

There are many reasons given in the story why Scrooge doesn’t like Christmas, but a big one is that he just can’t understand why people would voluntarily give away their money, time, or even kindness to help other people. His one employee, Bob Cratchit, has a salary barely high enough to make up for Scrooge’s tightfisted disdain.

When a pair of gentlemen come to Scrooge's office asking for donations to help the poor, Scrooge points to the money taken from him by the government...

When a pair of gentlemen come to Scrooge’s office asking for donations to help the poor, Scrooge points to the money taken from him by the government: “Are there no prisons?…And the Union workhouses?…I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.” Unfortunately, this does little to help the poor—the gentlemen protest that “Many can’t go there, and many would rather die.” And it’s even more obvious from Scrooge’s cold, unfeeling demeanor that he gets nothing at all from “helping” the poor in this way.

***Spoiler Alert***

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old partner, Marley, as well as three Christmas Spirits. Marley, who lived his life much as Scrooge does, is still bound by the chains of his greed, tormented by how he could have helped his fellow men. The Spirit of Christmas Past shows Scrooge how he used to care and have compassion for others, until he let the cares of the world set his heart like concrete.

The Spirit of Christmas Present takes Scrooge around the earth, viewing the happiness made possible even in the midst of poverty by caring for others. His heart softening, Scrooge is distraught at the sight of the sufferers, and asks if there is nobody to help them. “Are there no prisons?” the Spirit replies cuttingly. “Are there no workhouses?” Stricken by his own callousness in using the government as an excuse not to care, Scrooge finds himself before the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows him the dark, lonely life (and death) that await him—if his life continues unchanged.

But Scrooge has truly seen the light. He bursts from his house on Christmas morning like a ray of sunshine, spreading cheer where before he only brought gloom. No longer content to rely on the government to use money taken by taxation to help the poor, he begins a voluntary giving spree. He sees the gentlemen from the previous day and provides a donation so generous that they are shocked. When he next sees Cratchit, Scrooge is as munificent as he was miserly: “I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family…”

Notably, Scrooge's change of heart did not cause him to advocate for more taxes or welfare programs, but to voluntarily reach out to those around him.

The narrator records: “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more…” Notably, Scrooge’s change of heart did not cause him to advocate for more taxes or welfare programs, but to voluntarily reach out to those around him. By doing so, he affected their lives for the better in ways the government programs never could, and they in turn enriched his life in ways he never imagined.

The book refers to this as “keeping Christmas,” but voluntary giving does not have to be limited to a certain season. As Scrooge said: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” And you don’t have to be Christian—or religious at all—to feel the kindness and compassion that Scrooge felt in his heart, and use that to voluntarily bring light and hope to others.

“May that truly be said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”

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Voluntaryists Help Hundreds of Needy Children

Many families struggle to merely make ends meet during the holiday season and don’t have anything extra to buy gifts for their children. We at Voluntaryism in Action wanted to help as many children as possible have a magical holiday, so we launched our inaugural Jolly Voluntary Toy Drive. In record time, we were able to raise more than $5,000!

The VIA team reached out to our local communities as well as the VIA Community group on Facebook, and we found several individual families in need whom we were able to directly send gifts to for their children. We used the rest of the money to buy toys for Orchards Children’s Services, an organization that helps foster children find parents in Detroit and Flint Michigan. Once again, we at VIA were able to make a difference in people’s lives—thanks to our generous donors!