Shoppers who head to Battlefield Mall for holiday gifts have a new option that doesn’t require gift wrap and won’t take up much trunk space.
Through vending machines installed at two locations in the mall by The Clegg Family Foundation Inc., gift-givers can now add charitable donations to their shopping list. Donors make a donation via cash or card, like $5 for a soccer ball or $125 for a goat, and the machine provides a card acknowledging the gift.
The first beneficiaries of the venture are two groups that have local offices but serve people in need around the world: Convoy of Hope and Man Up and Go. Additional charities may be included in future years.
The foundation’s program, called Vend the Gift of Hope, is more than three years in the making, according to President Tim Clegg, co-owner of Hurts Donut Co. with wife Kas. The Cleggs registered the foundation as a 501(c)(3) charity in December 2020, and their intention was to provide the charity vending machines locally.
But the best-laid plans aren’t always easy to implement, Tim Clegg said.
“We finally worked out all the kinks and the gremlins, and we’re going to give it our shot,” he said. “After three years of planning and disappointment, we’re ready to go.”
Clegg said the machines were custom made to his specs by a Chinese manufacturer at a cost of $5,000-$6,000 per unit, but they were delayed in 2021 due to shipping challenges.
When the machines arrived, Clegg said, the machines’ labels and instructions and even the programming were in Mandarin.
“We had to reprogram with a lot of help from a group at Efactory,” he said, referring to Missouri State University’s business incubator. There, he said, a student group took on the challenge in hopes of getting them operational for 2022.
“They helped us get to a point where we were able to completely build it to where it was usable, but we missed our window,” he said.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Clegg said he and a team of volunteers from Grooms Office Environments installed the two machines at the mall – one by the dining area of the food court and the other behind Santa’s workshop, between JCPenney and Starbucks.
Local donation, global scope
Springfield-based Convoy of Hope, the disaster-relief charity that ranks No. 43 on Forbes’ list of the largest 100 charities in the United States, will likely be familiar to most vending machine customers. The other beneficiary, Man Up and Go, with chapters in Springfield, Kansas City and Tampa, Florida, is a charity founded in 2009 to meet the needs of children without fathers.
Ethan Forhetz, Convoy’s vice president of public engagement, said Tim and Kas Clegg have hearts for helping, and that is evident with the charitable vending machines project.
“This great idea will be instrumental in people getting the help and the hope they need,” he said. “Convoy is honored to be a part of it.”
Tim McConville, Springfield-based regional development coordinator for Man Up and Go, said Tim Clegg has been a supporter of Man Up and Go since its inception, and the Clegg Family Foundation’s inclusion of the charity in the vending machine alongside Convoy of Hope does a lot to raise the organization’s exposure.
“As you grow awareness, you grow your volunteer base and your donor base, and that allows you to serve more families and more kids,” he said.
Man Up and Go is a Christian faith-based organization that McConville said mobilizes men to advocate for the fatherless. That might mean supporting a family through its adopt-a-family program, mentoring youth or helping single mothers, all through volunteer efforts.
Amanda Estes, general manager of Battlefield Mall, said she was pleased the mall was able to support the foundation’s efforts, as well as the two charities.
“Battlefield Mall is always looking for meaningful ways to give back to the community,” she said in an email. “With the giving season upon us, we hope these Vend the Gift vending machines encourage shoppers to give a little extra this holiday season.”
The mall is donating space for the machines.
How it works
Organizers say the vending machines were set for a soft opening on Black Friday, Nov. 24, with the official unveiling to be on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28. The machines will stay open through Dec. 31, Clegg said, when they will be put away for the season. In the future, the foundation hopes to collaborate with other charities through the program, and he said they have already had some conversations with interested nonprofit leaders.
He added that an online version of the vending machines can be found at VendTheGift.org.
Donors may give as little as $3 or as much as $500 through the vending machines by choosing an item to give. Examples are gifts of $5 for a child’s medication, $50 for education materials or a holiday meal for adoptive families, and $100 for farming tools. McConville noted the item chosen by donors is provided by the charities. He added that the charities worked with the foundation to select the items being offered.
The selections are intended to appeal to donors of all ages, according to the foundation.
“We wanted to create a space for giving that was manageable for all budgets, because anything truly counts when it comes to feeding a hungry child,” said Kas Clegg in an announcement of the machines provided by the foundation.
Tim Clegg said 100% of donations go directly to the two participating charities.
“We created the charity based on wanting to support the charities we’ve selected through our vending machines,” he said. “We love the vending machine concept – we love being able to share what these charities are doing for the local community, the domestic community and the global community.”
Using a genuine doughnut-man metaphor, Clegg added that he loves to share bite-sized ways for people to support the charities.
“We chose the holiday season because we believe people’s hearts are most open and they feel most charitable then,” he said.
He said he also likes that children can participate.
“It’s great to be able to introduce children into the lifestyle of charity and giving – they love vending machines,” he said.
Clegg said he and Kas have enjoyed getting the program off the ground with their four kids watching it unfold.
“Our business is built around a spirit of charity – that’s part of our culture,” he said of Hurts Donut Co.
He noted he grew up in a charitable home, and even when times were tough, he would see his father drop a check into the collection plate at church every Sunday.
“That was a good model, and I wanted to establish that mindset for our children,” he said.
Clegg said the foundation has not set a fundraising goal for the first year. Rather, he hopes to see how the program grows and then establish goals for future years with 2023 as a baseline.
SBJ interviews the associate dean, vice chair and professor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy at Missouri State University.