LDS Charities' Giving Machines at University Place start taking donations 05

Porter Deru, 4, of Provo, tries to make a donation during the unveiling of Giving Machines, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at University Place on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Recently, I witnessed a family with several young children, each holding fistfuls of $5 and $1 bills, eagerly looking through a vending machine menu to make their selections. They weren’t looking for sodas or chips, though; they were at the Orem Giving Machines, excited to help others with their charitable donations. They made their choices and handed their cash to their mom, who then made the donations using her card.

The holidays are a perfect time to begin or reinforce a tradition of looking outside one’s self to help others. No matter your age or stage in life, it’s important to learn that anyone can give, that we don’t always see the results of our selfless actions and that gathering together to give makes the world better.

Anyone Can Give

The ability to give back is a privilege, and that privilege can feel out of reach when financial situations aren’t ideal or when children are too little to take along to volunteer activities. But anyone can make a difference through small giving opportunities that fit any situation or stage in life.

Donating money is one way to go. For example, at the Giving Machines in Orem, you can donate as little as $5 (via a credit or debit card) to help someone in need. That may not sound like a lot, but a little goes a long way: Community Action Services can use one dollar to provide approximately four meals to local families. If you have a desire to help, you can make a difference, no matter your situation. Here are a few ideas on how to give back when you’re low on cash.

The Giving Machines are an easy way for even young kids to participate in charitable giving. As I was volunteering at the Giving Machines, I was touched to see many families, including some who appeared to be in need themselves, lining up to donate. It was a joy to watch children toting bags of change they’d saved. All of them were incredibly excited that they got to choose how they would donate. Would it be three chickens, a Take-Home Meal for a Child, a holiday meal for a family or something else? Giving back in simple ways is a meaningful, unforgettable way to spend time as a family, no matter your circumstances.

We Don’t Always See the Results of Charitable Acts

When parents are teaching young children to help others, it makes sense to show the children tangible examples so they can immediately see the results. You might teach them to hug a younger sibling who is crying or share a toy with a friend who comes to play. This helps them connect their selfless actions with positive consequences.

But as kids get older, it’s important to teach them that sometimes the most needed service isn’t as tangible and doesn’t show us immediate results. For example, donating canned food is a wonderful thing to do, and it’s tangible: you can picture a hungry neighbor warming up the soup and smiling because their belly is full. However, sometimes canned food isn’t what is most needed; things like can openers might be in short supply. Donating a can opener might not conjure the same mental imagery, but it is equally needed.

Similarly, giving cash may not feel like it is as useful as giving a ready-to-use item, but it is often the most helpful thing you can do. Charitable organizations can use cash to purchase food at heavily discounted rates, put gas in food delivery trucks, and pay the driver of that truck. Because of their partnerships and connections, charitable organizations can make money stretch a long way and do a lot of good.

Gathering together makes everyone’s lives better

I get to see people coming together to help others every day, and it’s beautiful! I know firsthand that there are few things more satisfying than gathering together with family, friends or co-workers to give to others. From earning and collecting funds to donating the cash to the charity, bonds are strengthened each step of the way.

Researchers have found that connecting with others “helps relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation and the immune system. Another line of research suggests that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones.”

The holiday season can be stressful. So take a moment to prioritize the things that matter: strengthening your most meaningful relationships and participating in activities that bring joy to you and to those you care about.

The holidays make a perfect backdrop for teaching your children to help others. Whether young or old, teach them that anyone can give, that we don’t always see the results of our selfless actions (and that’s OK!) and that gathering together to give makes everyone’s lives better. Happy holidays!

Karen McCandless is the Executive Director of Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. CASFB is located at 815 S. Freedom Blvd, Ste. 100. For more information on the educational programs, how to make donations, upcoming classes, food drives and more, visit www.communityactionuc.org or call (801) 373-8200.

CASFB is located at 815 S. Freedom Blvd., Suite 100. For more information on the educational programs, how to make donations, upcoming classes, food drives and more, visit http://communityactionuc.org or call (801) 373-8200.