Spenser Heaps, Deseret News (photo)
SALT LAKE CITY — For $75, you can donate a goat to a family in a Third World country this Christmas.
For $25, you can pay for two chickens. It’s $20 for an eye exam or $5 for eyeglasses.
All you have to do is take your money to the red vending machines in the corner of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building’s main lobby in downtown Salt Lake and select your item. Charities partnering with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will do the rest.
The machines will even generate a receipt for tax deductions in exchange for your charitable giving.
These unusual vending machines are how the LDS Church is kicking off its “Light the World” initiative, which starts Friday and runs until Christmas Day, and includes the campaign “In 25 Ways, Over 25 Days.” Each day features a new video with a message sharing ways to serve others.
Elder Brent H. Nielson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the LDS Church’s Missionary Department, said he liked the idea of sponsoring a goat for a family in another country.
“You could donate a goat that gives milk, and someone can use it to support their family. There’s not many places around here where you can donate a goat,” Elder Nielson said. “The exciting part is we usually go to a vending machine to get something. With these vending machines you can give something, which is unique and makes it simple to give.”
The machines are based on the New Testament scripture, Matthew 10:8, “Freely ye have received, freely give,” which serves as the theme for the first day of #LightTheWorld.
There are four machines offering different items from different charities.
Care.org has items such as a personal first aid kit ($10), school shoes ($30) and lifesaving medicine ($55).
The fourth machine’s items are all free as they are cards with a scripture reference and an idea for an act of service.
Jon Butler, assistant to Eye Care 4 Kids founder Joseph Carbone, said he loved the vending machine idea when he heard about it.
“What they are doing here will allow a lot of people to make a big difference around the world,” Butler said.
The vending machines will only be in the one location in Utah this year — for the month of December — but there is a possibility of future expansion if there is a good response, Elder Nielson said.
For years the LDS Church’s Missionary Department had talked about doing something in front of the Manhattan Temple in New York, where there’s a strong missionary force and a lot of foot traffic. When staffers came up with the idea for the vending machine, they arranged to place a regular vending machine next to the charity version in this New York location. They filmed the social experiment and the majority gave donations, said Jeff Taylor, creative director for BonCom.
“Far more people lined up to give. … It was really wonderful,” Taylor said. “We hope it grows next year so we can put it in more locations with more partners and allow people to turn the tide of commercialism. We have a lot of mission presidents around the world asking where can I get one of these? We’ve had a lot of comments that these should be in all the big retail stores.”
This year, however, licensing issues prevent the vending machines from being placed in other locations.
Elder Nielson said last year’s “Light the World” online campaign had an “amazing response” of more than 85 million views. He hopes this year’s effort will reach even farther.
“Sometimes it’s hard to know how to give, where to give. This is simple way to donate to a charity,” Elder Nielson said. “We are hoping people see how easy it is to give a few dollars or share money with a charity in need.”