SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The crowd pressed forward with phones held high to catch singer-songwriter Adassa performing songs from Disney’s Encanto in front of the Giving Machines at City Creek Center on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
Then, as she switched to Christmas hymns, some of the people remarked to each other how they felt the holiday season had truly begun — with the lighted trees and the now-traditional red vending machines allowing patrons to select something for others instead of for themselves for Christmas.
Elder Hugo E. Martinez, General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the Church’s Utah Area, spoke to those gathered about how the Giving Machines allow the opportunity to share blessings with others in meaningful ways.
“You stand in front of the machine and look at what is being offered. You just feel it in your heart and in your mind that you are to give. Nobody reports it but the mere fact at that precise moment you feel inspired to do it — that fills your heart with joy,” Elder Martinez told the Church News afterward.
The first Giving Machine debuted in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square in November 2017. Since then, $15 million have been raised for charity, with the Church covering all the operating costs. And this year, the machines have expanded to 28 locations, including mobile options.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox spoke in his remarks on Tuesday about the initiative’s beginning efforts. “We so appreciate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and everyone who went in on this crazy idea, like, ‘Will this even work?’ Not only has it worked, but it has become a worldwide phenomenon.”
Cox said in a divisive world, it is crucial to maintain a sense of community: “We do that by giving back, we do that by serving and by charitable giving.”
Mentors International is one of the charitable organizations involved in the Giving Machines. President Curtis Beesley said while they are headquartered in Utah, they operate in 14 different developing countries to help people become self-reliant.
“People can buy ducks — we have many of our clients who raise and sell ducks so this will help fund some of their operations. We also have many of our clients who are agricultural farmers, so there are seeds that can be bought,” Beesley said, adding that being in the Giving Machines raises awareness for the organization in addition to the donations.
“We are very blessed to be a part of this.”
Elder Martinez hope that as people give — either at the Giving Machines or online — and participate in other Light the World activities, they will have a Christ-centered Christmas.
“I don’t think that it will stop with just the 28 locations that are currently represented. Because this is something that is universal for all mankind in all walks of life in every country,” he said.
Orem Giving Machines
Later Tuesday evening, the Orem Giving Machines opened at University Place, with the Truman Brothers performing to kickoff the evening. The machines benefit five local charities in Utah County and three international groups.
Elder Evan A. Schmutz, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Utah Area presidency, spoke during the event and said how delighted he was to see so many children in the crowd.
“This is an important thing to learn for children and for all of us about giving,” he said.
Elder Schmutz said he and his wife, Sister Cindy Schmutz, were serving in the Philippines Area presidency when the first Giving Machines arrived in Manila, and they saw some of the gifts actually delivered to people.
“I can testify to you that those people actually are there, waiting to receive educational supplies or medical treatments or examinations or goats and chickens or food and so many things they stand in need of,” he said. “In our abundance, my dear friends, we have the opportunity to give.”
He said the light of Jesus Christ motivates people to give, and as they recognize the true light of Christ in them, they can become a light to other people far and wide.
“I’m very grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel that provides this kind of giving,” he concluded. “When we consider the light of Christ in our lives, we will seek to share that light with others.”