The CambridgeSide mall is currently hosting the Giving Machines, marking its debut in New England this holiday season.
Instead of the conventional vending machine experience, patrons purchase items from two cherry-red machines, and rather than receiving their purchases on the spot, the items are distributed to various causes. These include providing diapers to families in Boston-area homeless shelters, offering a digital literacy class to a local formerly incarcerated individual, or supplying a winter coat to an adult refugee in the area.
Sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these Giving Machines function similarly to traditional vending machines. Rows of cards display images and descriptions of items selected by seven local and national charities, with prices ranging from $5 to $150. To make a donation, patrons enter the item number, swipe their credit card, or scan their phone (cash is not accepted), and the corresponding card symbolically drops into the lower compartment. The tax-deductible donations are then sent to the charities, with the church covering all operational costs.
Jared Chrislip, the communications director for the Boston Coordinating Council of the church, emphasized the primary goal of shining a light on the positive actions of others in the community and directing funds towards them. The featured nonprofits in the CambridgeSide machines include the Transformational Prison Project, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Catholic Charities Boston, and the International Institute of New England, along with national charities UNICEF, CARE, and WaterAid.
Melissa LaVita, CambridgeSide’s regional marketing director, noted that the Giving Machines complement the mall’s other holiday campaigns, such as donation drives for Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. The machines, which opened on December 2 and will accept donations until January 1, experience the highest foot traffic on weekends. Since their introduction in 2017, these machines have globally raised over $22 million and can be found in 61 locations worldwide.
Bobby Iacoviello, Jr., director of community outreach for the Transformational Prison Project, highlighted the significance of these donations for nonprofits, citing their potential to provide crucial funds for programs facing financial challenges. Even the lowest-cost item in the machine, a $25 T-shirt with a meaningful message, can make a positive impact. The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program also emphasized the importance of items like $5 diapers in addressing essential needs for individuals experiencing homelessness.
In essence, the Giving Machines aim to showcase the power of community collaboration in addressing the needs of those less fortunate. While affiliated with the Mormon church, the organizers hope the spirit of the campaign transcends denominational boundaries, emphasizing the importance of innovative and enjoyable ways to help others.