For the second year in a row, bright red "giving machines" join the Christmas decor in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City as part of the Church's #LightTheWorld campaign.
A year after the successful 2017 campaign, the Church is again partnering with global and local organizations in Salt Lake — as well as in four other locations around the globe — to "Light the World — Give as He Gave."
Whether it is purchasing a soccer ball, clean water, hygiene supplies or livestock, individuals and families around the world have the opportunity to purchase commodities to help others in need.
“Parents, families, individuals — they always want to look for some concrete thing they can do to give and to connect with people who are in need around the world,” said Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. “Sometimes we feel we want to do something, but it is sometimes hard to know what to do. This is a concrete way that parents and families can come and teach the rising generation, ‘This is how we care for each other, this is what we do.’”
Giving machines — large, red vending machines — are in five locations this year and will all be open by Nov. 30. This year the campaign has gone global, with machines in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah; in the Water Tower Plaza in Gilbert, Arizona; on site of the Manhattan New York Temple in New York City, New York; in the Hyde Park Visitors Center in London, England; and in the SM Mega Mall in Manila, Philippines.
“(Service) is certainly not only through a giving machine — you can do anything that is a simple thing in your own family life — but this is an instant way to provide service, and a way to teach people … who we are as members of the Church of Jesus Christ,” Sister Eubank said.
A variety of items are available to purchase, including food, clothing, eyeglasses, medicine, hygiene supplies, wheelchairs, sporting equipment and livestock. The machines will be available through the Christmas season and partner with global charities such as CARE, UNICEF, WaterAid, Water For People, Eye Care 4 Kids, Utah Food Bank and Utah Refugee Connection.
“Each location has local partners as well,” Sister Eubank said.
Sister Reyna Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, added: “No matter our circumstances, we want to help others. Everybody can help. And hopefully we can find ways to help each other know that they matter and they are important.”
For Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the the Utah Food Bank, partnering with the Church has been a great experience.
“The partnership that we have with the Church goes beyond the holiday season, but we are so humbled to be a part of this specific event,” she said. “It brings such attention to the need in a variety of areas, not only in the local area but worldwide.”
This marks the second year the Church has partnered with the Utah Food Bank specifically in the vending machines.
“Last year … they garnered over 282,000 meals through the donations that we gathered through this process,” Bott said. “That’s a lot of food. We fed a lot of families in Utah. But above and beyond the dollars and meals is the education, the awareness.”
As families visit Temple Square and other places downtown for holiday events, they are able to take a minute to give.
“It is starting to help the next generation of donors — and there is no better way to do that than through the spirit of giving,” Bott said. “After they do it, the kids … talk to their friends and teachers and that awareness spreads. … They have a story to tell and they have taken ownership of the problem. Our goal is to have many, many folks share in the fight against hunger.”
Amy Dott Harmer, executive director of the Utah Refugee Connection, is excited to partner with the Church through the giving machines this year.
“We have the opportunity to make a big difference with the needs right here in our own backyard,” she said. “And you don’t even have to put anything together.”
Some of the goods available to purchase for refugees include basic items — a home essentials kit, cleaning supplies, diapers and even a volleyball.
“We go through 100 to 450 kits a week,” she said. “These are items that are most helpful to [refugees].”
Joseph G. Carbone, a pediatric optician and president and founder of Eye Care 4 kids, talked about the impact the #LightTheWorld campaign in the past.
“Last year there were 23,000 individual donations,” said Carbone. “Eye Care 4 Kids was able to help 2,000 children receive vision screenings, eye examinations and eye glasses. And these are cool glasses, not the ones they don’t want to wear.”
More than seeing clearly, Carbone has seen how children “become changed” through proper eye care.
“We are helping someone become self-reliant,” he said. “They perform better in school, they are getting hope.”
Although the service rendered through the giving machines is quite instant for the individual purchasing the service, the benefits of one’s purchase has a long term benefit for local communities and charities throughout the world.
“They are sending a message that anyone can give,” Bott said. “Five dollars goes a long ways for any of these charities.”
Sister Eubank compared giving to lighting a candle, explaining that sometimes bringing light to others comes through providing a meal, school supplies or even a soccer ball.
“Through this we are able to build the character for givers and receivers.”