The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wanted a way to help people perform an instant act of service.
The legend is that during discussions on how to accomplish that, someone brought in a sandwich purchased from a vending machine. And thus, the idea for the Light the World Giving Machines came about, said Amy Johnson, a Littleton resident who serves as the spokesperson for Light the World Giving Machines.
“The main goal,” Johnson said, “is to give everyone a chance to participate in giving.”
The Light the World Giving Machines provide people with an opportunity to purchase an item to benefit a charity. Items range in cost from $5 for art supplies for refugee children to $173 for a month of meals for a person in need.
Giving Machines got started in 2017 in Salt Lake City. In 2018, it expanded to five cities and raised $2.3 million for charities. It was in 2018 that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock saw the Giving Machine in Salt Lake City, and wanted to bring it to Denver, Johnson said.
“Denverites are charitable people,” she added.
So the local church committee for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got together, and they then worked with Salt Lake City to bring a Giving Machine to Denver, Johnson said. It came to Denver for the first time in 2019, and in Denver alone, $667,000 was raised for charities — contributing to the total $6.3 million, among the 10 cities that had a Giving Machine in 2019.
The Giving Machines had a hiatus in 2020, but are now back. In Denver this year, it is located in Writer Square on the 16th Street Mall between Lawrence and Larimer streets downtown. It is available 24 hours, but volunteers will be present from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Giving Machine will be in Denver until Jan. 2.
How it works is people visit the Light the World Giving Machine and select an item to purchase — quite literally as one would do from any vending machine.
All the items benefit a charity, with four of the six being local nonprofits.
The four local charities are: The Crowley Foundation, which mentors young men of color; the Denver Rescue Mission, which helps people experiencing homelessness; JFS, also known as Jewish Family Service, which helps provide food security and housing stability to families in need; and Project Worthmore, which helps refugee families re-settle. The two international charities are: CARE, which helps women and girls globally defeat poverty and achieve social justice; and UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency, which helps safeguard the rights and well-being of people forced to flee conflict or persecution.
The Giving Machines offer a variety of items that can be purchased to help support the above-mentioned charities — backpacks and school supplies, bus passes, mental health counseling, ESL and citizenship courses, goats and chickens to help feed a family in a developing country, a handwashing station to serve a community in a developing country, to name just some of the items available.
“The charities have committed to use the money (that people put in the Giving Machine) to purchase the item,” Johnson said. “They can be confident that the item they purchase will go to a person who needs it.”
Whether it be a winter coat or hygiene products, by donating items through the Giving Machine, people are able to provide hope and a sense of security to someone, said Nicole Tschetter, public relations manager for the Denver Rescue Mission.
“The Giving Machines are a festive and one-of-a-kind way to support the (Denver Rescue) Mission and everyone we serve,” Tschetter said. “Our community has shown us time and time again, that when we come together, we can accomplish remarkable things.”