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Vending machines open around the globe to help #LightTheWorld

SALT LAKE CITY — For the second year in a row, bright red “giving machines” join the Christmas decor in the lobby of the downtown Joseph Smith Memorial Building as part of the #LightTheWorld campaign for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A year after the successful 2017 campaign, the church is again partnering with local and global organizations in Salt Lake City — as well as in four other locations around the globe — to “Light the World–Give as He Gave.”

“Sometimes we feel we want to do something but it is hard to know what to do,” said Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities and a member of the church's Relief Society general presidency. “This is a concrete way that parents and families can come and teach the rising generation (that) this is how we care for each other.”

The giving machines give patrons the opportunity to purchase commodities — food, clothing, medicine, hygiene supplies, wheelchairs, sporting equipment and even livestock — for individuals and families in need. Partnerships are with CARE, UNICEF, WaterAid, Water For People, Eye Care 4 kids, Utah Food Bank and Utah Refugee Connection.

But this year the church is doing things a little different. The giving machines — like the campaign — have gone global.

In addition to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, giving machines are available in four other locations: the Water Tower Plaza in Gilbert, Arizona; at the Manhattan New York Temple in New York City; in the Hyde Park Visitors’ Center in London; and in the SM Mega Mall in Manila, Philippines.

“Each location has local partners,” Sister Eubank said.

For those local partners, the vending machines have become a positive partnership.

“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,” said Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “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 worked with the Utah Food Bank 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.”

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.”

Joseph G. Carbone, a pediatric optician and president and founder of Eye Care 4 Kids, looks forward to continuing the work done after last year’s donations.

“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 eyeglasses. 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.

Purchases through the giving machines will be available at the various locations through the holiday season. All of the donations gathered go directly to the purchased items sponsored by the different charities or to services of greater need according to the group’s discretion. The church will cover all administrative costs associated with the campaign for the nonprofit partners.

The vending machines “are sending a message that anyone can give,” Bott said. “Five dollars goes a long ways for any of these charities.”