Christmas shoppers at CoolSprings Galleria will be able to embrace the joy of giving while making the season a little brighter for people struggling to meet their most basic needs. From three #LightTheWorld Giving Machines, visitors can purchase and donate items ranging from clothing, food and hygiene supplies for refugees and people facing terminal illness and visual impairment.
Local beneficiaries include Catholic Charities and Tennessee Resettlement Aid, currently serving hundreds of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees who fled with nothing; Angel Heart Farm, which provides equine therapy for families with children diagnosed with chronic and life-threatening illnesses; Achilles International, providing opportunities for blind people to live fuller lives through competitive running; and Graceworks Ministries, which serves thousands of low-income neighbors with the fulfillment of basic life needs and wraparound care.
Katie Finn, Executive Director of Tennessee Resettlement Aid, serves 730 Afghan refugees who assisted the United States military and, as a result, were forced to flee their homeland.
“Our Afghan allies are here because they risked their lives for our troops, and they came with literally nothing,” Finn says. “We’re hoping to meet basic needs through the Giving Machines, such as pots and pans, bedsheets or a pair of shoes while raising awareness. They are starting new lives here in Nashville, learning a new language and culture while combating isolation and depression. And now we are seeing waves of Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn country.”
At Angel Heart Farm, Tracy Kujawa uses horses to give families a respite from the challenges associated with a chronic illness. She currently works with more than thirty families facing this stark reality. Visitors can purchase a riding helmet or boots or feed for the horses through the Giving Machines.
“You never think it will happen to your family, but when it does, it is life-altering,” Kujawa says. “Our mission is to empower them to have the confidence to get through this fight and to help families reconnect during a difficult diagnosis and illness. As we’re celebrating Christmas, we want people to understand that others are suffering through hard times. This is a great way to help.”
The #LightTheWorld Giving Machines were launched in Salt Lake City by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which covers the cost of the machines and associated fees. As a result, charities receive 100 percent of donations made through the machines. Since 2017, the initiative has raised over $15 million through the contributions of more than 1,200,000 people. Nashville is one of twenty-six cities worldwide to be selected to receive Giving Machines.
Carla Parker, a co-chair of the Giving Machines Nashville campaign, says, “In a time when so much is about ‘getting,’ it’s rewarding to be a part of a collaborative effort that promotes the importance of serving and caring for others. Each person who participates with the Giving Machines gives a loving and selfless gift.”
Each charity selected five items for the machines most needed by those they serve. Gifts like books, meals, personal care items, fresh food, school supplies — even ducks — are represented by cards in bright red vending machines. Visitors pay by credit card or mobile pay, then choose, just like a regular vending machine. Instead of “getting,” visitors “give” as they select and buy items from the machines. Prices start at $5 and top out at $150.
The Giving Machines will be in place on Monday, November 21, at CoolSprings Galleria and will remain through the holiday season. An official kick-off will be held on “Giving Tuesday,” with speeches from government officials and representatives from each charity. For more information about the event schedule or items inside the machines, please visit givingmachinesnashville.org.