Immigrants And Refugees

Giving Machines a Sign of the Interfaith Season

A family ponders which gift they'll give to others

It was no joke: A rabbi, a Latter-day Saints elder, and a Catholic Charities representative unwrapped a Giving Machine in Manhattan on November 29th while providing an interfaith perspective on the need for giving this holiday season.

They were joined by four others representing charitable groups that will benefit from busy Manhattan shoppers stopping to give to the poor and needy this season.

The journey of Mary and Joseph is no different than the asylum seekers Catholic Charities is welcoming

Luz Tavarez, Director of Government and Community Relations for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, spoke at the event held at the Latter-day Saints temple across from Lincoln Center, where a Giving Machine provides a chance for donors to provide MTA cards for migrants needing to get to a medical appointment or interview. Also provided for migrants by Catholic Charities are backpacks for children attending school in a new country as well as coloring books. Donors purchase the items they want to be distributed by the charitable agencies. The program will continue through January 1st.

Luz Tavarez (third from left) is joined by actor Brian Stokes-Mitchel (second from left), Rabbi Joseph Potasnik (fourth from left), Elder David Buckner, and others

Catholic Charities gifts available in the Giving Machines are coloring books, at $7 apiece; MTA Metrocards, $15; backpacks, $15; weather-proof jacket, $70; and a student chess scholarship, $200. They are simple items, said Luz, but much needed by migrants who have come to the city this year lacking most necessities. Their stories provide a pertinent seasonal tie, she said.

“The journey of Mary and Joseph is no different than the asylum seekers Catholic Charities is welcoming,” she told those gathered at the small ceremony installing this year’s Giving Machine project.

Begun by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City in 2017, the project later expanded to New York and other cities the next year. The campaign has been a fixture every holiday season except for the 2020 Covid-ravaged season. This year the machines are located both near Lincoln Center, outside the Latter-day Saints temple, and at Rockefeller Center, at the concourse between 48th and 49th streets. The machines allow donors to select the projects they want to support.

The New York presence is part of a project that involves 22 cities in the U.S. as well as sites in Australia, Canada, the Philippines, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, noted that donors can provide sabbath meals for those who could not afford them otherwise. Whatever organization is assisted, it’s important to give, he said.

What is remembered in any person’s life, said Rabbi Potasnik, “is what we give, not what we keep for ourselves.”

Broadway actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell, representing the Entertainment Fund, a charity that provides for those in the entertainment industry who face financial struggles, said the Giving Machines are “a great thing for busy New Yorkers, a perfect way to do it.”

Other groups represented in this year’s New York Giving Machines include UNHCR, the United Nations agency supporting refugees; UNICEF; Mentors International and the Mariano Rivera Foundation.

Since its launch, the Giving Machines project has generated more than $15 million in contributions. Last year’s campaign generated $5.8 million in donations involving 77,000 transactions.

A couple of the gifts sponsored by Catholic Charities New York in the Light the World Giving Machines
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