The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is changing the world one chicken at a time with their Light the World Giving Machines.
Brett Meldrum, a senior brand director at Boncom from Houston, Texas said he works with the Church to help to organize and run the giving machines.
“There is a piqued interest in Jesus Christ during certain times of the year like Christmas,” Meldrum said. “There’s never a more natural time to say that you believe in Jesus Christ and share about Him.”
Meldrum said the giving machines came about as the church was searching for better ways to share the message of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Giving machines provided an easy way for people to give to others like He would.
Meldrum said they did the first giving machines in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for Christmas in 2017.
“It hit a nerve because people were looking for something to experience as a family and with their friends,” Meldrum said.
Tannon Rymer from St. George, Utah and Gavin Turnmire from North Carolina said they visited the giving machines for the first time this year.
“I had never seen one in person, but I knew about them,” Rymer said. “We were just walking around (the mall), saw them and thought it was super cool!”
Rymer and Turnmire said they purchased an item from the giving machine. They act similarly to a vending machine, but give the money to someone in need instead of rewarding the purchaser.
“I’ve seen videos of them, and I had no idea how it worked,” Turnmire said. “This is my first time seeing one.”
Rymer said after donating, they felt the happy because they chose to serve others. She said it all goes back to the scripture in Mosiah 2:17 that “…when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
Turnmire said he agrees that the scriptures teach us about charity, the pure love of Christ.
“It’s the best way to let people know that you love them,” Turnmire said. “If Christ was here, He would buy out the whole machine.”
Meldrum said they work with both local charities and global charities in each assigned location. Chances are, you’ll get different opportunities to serve at each giving machine.
Karl Cheney from Bountiful, Utah, the Mass Media Specialist in the missionary department, said he has had the chance to travel to and oversee the giving machines throughout the world.
“There’s really something for everyone in a giving machine–from pencils to pigs,” Cheney said. “There is something in each machine that will appeal to the purchaser and is needed by the receiver.”
Cheney said locals in SACRAMENTO have already helped in donating funds to give 96,000 meals to people in need.
“Some of the things obviously in a given machine are more immediate, like a meal, groceries or diapers,” Cheney said. “And, there’s a lot of things in the giving machines that have lasting effects like education, job training, starting a business, raising livestock to feed their family for quite some time or provide an income.”
Provo residents Ben and Cami Reece said they volunteered as a family to help run the giving machines at the University Place Mall in Orem.
“I love the giving machines because they are so accessible,” Ben said. “They do a good job of presenting it in a way that allows anyone to come and participate in a low-pressure, easy- access way.”
Ben Reece said he feels strongly that people get closer to the Savior as they strive to follow His example of giving. They are doing His work when they serve.
His wife, Cami Reece, said there are a lot of people in the world who don’t have access to help. She said it feels good to think of other people other than herself.
“We hope it will make a difference,” Cami said. “We really want to do things for people that are less accessible in our Utah County bubble.”
Cami Reece said increasing unity and love always brings us closer to the Savior and to those we love, even if it is something small.
Meldrum said 100% of the funds raised through the giving machines go to the charities that are then passed on to people in need.
Cheney said he has seen these funds directly bless those people with his own eyes.
“I had the opportunity in September to travel to Bosnia and Moldova and meet with individuals and families who have received giving machine items,” Cheney said. “They are grateful for the things that people have donated whom they will never meet.”
Cheney said people have a connection with the item that they purchase for someone else.
“I heard a young boy about six or seven years old as he walked away from donating at a giving machine,” Cheney said. “He turned to his mom and said, ‘I wonder who’s going to get my ball today.’”
Cheney said this is the epitome of what the giving machines are all about. Whether the person is across the street or across the world, people walk away with the satisfaction of knowing that their donations are going exactly where they want it to go.
Meldrum said the purpose of the Light the World campaign is to praise God and help people serve others so they can feel the Spirit in their lives.
“Jesus Christ is the light of the world,” Meldrum said. “We have been entrusted to light the world with his light.”