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Charity Vending Machines Raised Over $500K to Light the World


The words “Light the World” recently lit up YouTube, social media, LDS visitors’ centers, New York City’s Times Square, and even vending machines. As part of the 2017 initiative from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, charity vending machines added a new twist to the second year of the “Light the World” effort by inspiring people to follow Jesus Christ’s example and “freely give.”

The results were inspiring.

The Light the World vending machines looked like typical snack machines but offered a different kind of fare: water filters, socks, emergency blankets, first aid kits, and more. What was the catch? You didn’t buy any of the Light the World items for yourself. Instead, each “purchase” was actually a donation to a charitable organization.

Each Light the World vending machine included items corresponding to needs identified by five charitable organizations: CARE, the Utah Food Bank, Eye Care 4 Kids, Water for People, and WaterAid.

1. More Than $500,000 in Donations

In total, the Light the World vending machines collected more than $500,000 in donations. Equally impressive, 100 percent of the funds went to the charitable partner organizations.

Donations designated for the Utah Food Bank “will have an incredible impact on the 392,000 Utahns who face hunger,” explained Jim Yorgason, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “We are able to take each $1 donated and stretch it into $7.48 worth of goods and services [for people in our own backyards who need help].”

2. 25 Days, 27,000 Transactions

During the 25 days of the Christmas season, the Light the World vending machines processed 27,830 transactions from donors.

The machines were housed in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. There, they offered visitors the chance to perform an instant act of service while at Temple Square—a popular destination for viewing Christmas lights during the holiday season. At times, people waited in lines for hours to make their charitable selections.

3. Immeasurable Light Shared

Temple Square wasn’t the only place Light the World vending machines received attention. Hundreds of people posted their donation experiences on Instagram using the hashtag #freelygivemachine.

The charitable vending machines debuted in New York City. Presented with the choice of Get or Give, passersby responded to the machines first with curiosity and then with generosity. Their reactions were captured and shared in the Light the World day 1 video.

In addition to their video introduction on YouTube, the vending machines received coverage from a variety of news organizations. This Facebook post from ABC4 Utah had 2.6 million views and was shared 54,904 times.

“Every dollar that was donated made the world a better place,” remarked Joseph Carbone, CEO and founder of Eye Care 4 Kids. “Everyday miracles happen in our clinics—whether it is the little boy who can see his mother’s face for the first time, a child that actually sees leaves on a tree for the first time, or a child that can finally see to read.”

Now that was truly a great way to light the world.

Image provided by Deseret News and Scott Winterton