Light the World Giving Machines 2

A woman uses The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' giving machine in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Have you heard the news about the newest way to give during the holidays in Utah County? Giving Machines are like vending machines, except instead of a cold can of soda, you get charitable giving options, plus that warm feeling that comes from giving to others.

Part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual Light the World campaign, Giving Machines will be located in Orem for the first time this year. In addition to things like goats, chickens and clean water through international charities, users will have the option to donate food to Utah County residents through Community Action Services and Food Bank.

We feel privileged to be a part of this campaign, which raised over $2.3 million for local and global charities last year. It has me thinking, what makes these machines so fun, and could we keep the fun going throughout the rest of the year? Giving Machines make giving easy yet effective. They give donors a little taste of what their neighbors at home and abroad are struggling with. And they help donors to be a little more compassionate as they walk away from the experience.

Quick yet effective ways to serve

In our fast-paced, productivity-focused culture in Utah Valley, people want to give but they face an intimidating obstacle: time. There don’t seem to be enough days in the week for everything we need to get done. But I’m here to tell you that there are quick ways to serve that will give you a boost and truly help those you serve.

For example, I volunteer as a substitute driver for Meals on Wheels. I end up driving for an hour or two each month. Easy! And I really enjoy visiting with and learning from the seniors.

Another obstacle to serving is that people think they won’t make a difference. (If you’ve ever spent an hour with teenagers as they half-heartedly weed for a service activity, you know the feeling.) My secret is to look around on http:/ There are so many opportunities — you can find causes you’re passionate about and activities you enjoy doing. These service opportunities are needed and important.

Donating is a quick and effective way to make a difference. At Community Action Services and Food Bank, we sometimes receive Amazon packages with sleeping bags in them, sent by anonymous donors. As easy as a click for those amazing donors, but it makes such a difference to those we serve.

As the weather gets colder, here are a few things you could donate to make a difference: sleeping bags, tarps, hand warmers and gloves — and can openers are always very helpful!

Gaining empathy

Have you ever witnessed how service can change a person? In our Circles initiative, middle-class volunteers become intentional friends for individuals working to rise out of poverty. These Allies may come with preconceived notions about poverty and how individuals in poverty respond to help. But as they partner with those in poverty, they understand that things aren’t always what they seem. As they gain understanding and empathy, they can become champions in the community.

Being an Ally requires a couple of hours a week for a year, and it isn’t a light commitment. But as with any service for an intense need, it takes time and commitment. Whether you’re giving time and energy to serve in a church, community or family setting, the empathy and understanding you can gain are priceless.

Changing the world from the inside out

When we’re in the rhythm of daily life, we can become almost “zoomed in.” All we can see is our concerns and appointments, and they look huge! Service is one solution that has helped me “zoom out” and have a broader vision of life. As I serve, I go beyond just doing all the things I need to do and start becoming the person I want to be. As I serve, I better understand others’ cultures and beliefs. As I serve, I become more and more comfortable serving, and now I prefer it when I’m serving!

I wouldn’t have thought that would happen when I was a student at Brigham Young University. As I would take a shortcut through the business building on my way to class, I would always pass a bust of Nathan Eldon Tanner, which bore this quotation: “Service is the rent we pay for living in this world of ours.” As we serve and become better ourselves, we can help make our community and world better, too.

Giving Machines have shown us that serving can be easy yet effective. As we serve, we can gain empathy and go forward with the motivation to make the world a better place. So go out there and give! Start small, and make it a part of your life. You’ll be happy with how it changes you.

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 in Provo. For more information on the educational programs, how to make donations, upcoming classes, food drives and more, visit 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 or call (801) 373-8200.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!