Light the World Giving Machines

Left to right: Dave Richins, CEO of United Food Bank;
Michael Hughes, CEO of A New Leaf; Katy Pompay, manager of Helen’s Hope Chest;
and Tom Kertis, CEO of St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

What happens when thousands and thousands of people in the community donate funds to local and global charities? Those charities receive a lot of money to purchase items for the people they serve!

I was happy to photograph the event at which 4 charities in my neck of the woods received enormous checks from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church had set up special vending machines called “Giving Machines” during the 2018 holiday season in 5 cities, including Gilbert, Arizona.

So, what exactly are Giving Machines?

A Giving Machine.

Imagine that instead of putting money into a machine and getting a snack immediately out of it, patrons paid for items to be donated to charities that work year-round directly with people in need. Pictures in the machines represented 42 choices. When purchased, the pictures dropped and collected in the machine tray. Choices included a polio vaccine, a box of fresh produce, a sewing machine, a pair of work boots, two live chickens, clothes for a refugee child, etc., etc., etc. From $2.00 for fingerling fishes to $210 for “school in a box,” donors could easily find something in their price range to give.

Many donors, especially young ones, were excited to help pay for families abroad to receive animals. Eager to buy a cow, two girls raised the requisite $150 with their own bake sale!

Readers may be delighted to know that the animals can still be purchased! Visit The website explains the need for another popular choice: “A goat gives a family nourishing milk to drink. It’s also a vital source of income, since extra milk can be sold at local markets. And because they’re always in demand, goats are like stocks or bonds, easily traded for vital goods and other animals.”

How did the idea of the Giving Machines come about? I was fascinated to learn as I interviewed people in the know. They are part of the Church’s Light the World initiative. “It started by thinking, ‘How would Jesus Christ celebrate His own birthday?'” says Jeff Taylor, Executive Creative Director of Bonneville Communications (Boncom). “And we came up with this campaign called ‘Light the World,’ which is essentially celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ by emulating His life.” People were encouraged to do nice things for others throughout December.

Continuing to work under the direction of the Church’s Missionary Department to promote the campaign, the Boncom Creative Team got an old vending machine, fitted it with the cards and dressed it with Light the World banners. It looked nice, but public property owners were understandably skeptical about granting it space. Finding it a holiday home in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah took time. A week before Thanksgiving in 2017, someone at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building called and said, “We’ll take it.” It brought in approximately $500,000, all of which went to charities.

Next comes one of my favorite parts of the story. Leaders of a Catholic congregation in Manila, Philippines, happened to be touring Salt Lake at the time. They immediately recognized the machine’s potential and were eager to partner with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that relief effort. At Christmastime the following year (2018), a set of Giving Machines stood by their Catholic church, which resides inside the world’s seventh largest mall, the SM Megamall in metro Manila’s Ortigas Center.

Machines also went to London, England— by Hyde Park Chapel (owned by the Church) and New York City—by the Manhattan Temple.

Elder C. Dale Willis, Jr. and Gilbert, AZ Mayor Jenn Daniels tell attendees of a Gilbert Town Council meeting about the Giving Machines just before the checks were given.

On February 7, 2019, four Arizona charities received checks at a Town Council meeting in Gilbert. Elder C. Dale Willis, Jr., an area authority for the Church, said at the meeting, “Administrative costs (including credit-card fees) for the campaign and costs associated with its nonprofit partners were covered by The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He adds that “100% of donations will be used for the purchased item or similar items or service of greater need as determined by the applicable charitable organization.”

Elder Willis (left)
and Fran Lowder, the City Outreach Specialist for the Church in Gilbert (right)
give CEO Michael Hughes the check for his organization.
CEO Dave Richins had fun in front of the camera!

Those really are big checks! CEO Tom Kertis said the check he received would allow his food bank to provide almost a half million meals!

LDS Charities had thoughtfully chosen all the beneficiaries. Machines worldwide supported Care, Unicef, Water For People, WaterAid and two to four charities nearby.

Water, the #1-selling item, was sold in separate machines. Those machines collected $101,929 to give undernourished people abroad fresh water.

Donations allowed the following to be given:

  • 842,620 meals
  • 19,640 chickens
  • 15,776 medical and health supplies (including vaccinations)
  • 10,817 clothing and household supplies

The total dollar amounts collected are as follows:

  • Salt Lake City, Utah: $1,279,927 (48,030 transactions)
  • Gilbert, Arizona: $862,120 (34,843 transactions)
  • New York City, New York: $131,842 (4,556 transactions)
  • London, England: $20,912 (1,434 transactions)
  • Manila, Philippines: $15,041 (3,327 transactions)
  • Total: $2,309,844 (92,190 transactions)

The concept of Giving Machines was foreign to everyone. It took vision and trust. Thanks to incredible collaboration, the trust paid off.

The 2019 locations are not yet known, but the Church looks forward to this initiative continuing to expand. Meanwhile, find current needs of charitable agencies at

Have a charitable day!


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