It’s at this time of year that I always get emotional and feel my heart strings pulled just a little bit more. Thoughts of children and families who won’t have a Christmas dinner or presents under the tree this year make me want to help. To act. To give.
But this is also the busiest time of year, when grand notions often fall by the wayside as we all get overwhelmed with the holiday rush.
For visitors of Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, though, doing an act of service or paying it forward to someone in need is an accessible, quick, easy task — thanks to a few new vending machines.
Steven King, Media Manager in the Media Division-Missionary Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tells Babble that for the second consecutive year, the LDS church has participated in a “Light the World” initiative (known on social media as #LightTheWorld). They’ve created advent calendars that reveal a new way to serve others on each of the 25 days leading up to Christmas, and this year, they installed vending machines that offer chances to give back.
King tells Babble that the machines offer items such as water, eye glasses, socks, and first aid kits for purchase. “Only you don’t receive the item once you pay for it,” he explains. “It’s donated.”
Patrons can even purchase a goat or chickens to donate to a family in need, as well as medication and school shoes for children.
“The exciting part is we usually go to a vending machine to get something,” says Elder Brent H. Nielson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the LDS Church’s Missionary Department. “With these vending machines you can give something, which is unique and makes it simple to give.”
So how do they work? King explains to Babble that the LDS church partnered with several national philanthropic organizations such as Water for People, Eye Care 4 Kids, and Care.org. Utah Food Bank also joined up to help local residents receive the food they need to feed their families.
King adds that anyone is welcome to visit the machines, whether they’re a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or not. The idea is that anyone can give, so all are welcome to this amazing (and simple) opportunity to serve others. He also says that the location of the machines, in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, is intentional, as millions of people visit every year due to the LDS Church’s famous light display. So the more foot traffic, the more the machines will help others.
“One-hundred percent of the money that goes into the machines is sent on to the organizations we’ve partnered with,” King says. “None of the money will be kept at the church.”
King also wants those interested in making a purchase to know that the LDS church has intentionally partnered with organizations known for donating as close to 100 percent of their donations as possible.
“There might be a small administrative fee for some donations,” he tells Babble. “But if someone donates $75 to buy goats or chickens, they can rest assured that around $73 of that is going straight to someone in need, and there might be a $2 processing fee.”
What an amazingly simple and effective way to give back during the holiday season. Visitors can stop by, drop in a few dollars, and know that they’ve helped a child receive glasses or clean water. All within a matter of minutes.
Considering vending machines are often known for providing junk food that we don’t necessarily need, these sound like the best ones out there. And I for one can’t wait to see more just like them.