Light One Candle, our annual holiday gift drive, offers community members the unique opportunity to fulfill holiday wish lists for recently arrived refugee families and individuals, supporting their efforts to gain control of their future and become an integral part of our community.

Child opening gift form light one candle sponsors.
Light One Candle sponsors have the opportunity to provide wishlist items to newly arrived refugee families in the state of Utah.
Photo: James Roh

As a sponsor, you are given the great responsibility of providing gifts for refugee individuals and families. By working together, we can ensure many newly arrived refugee families will receive much-needed household items and other gifts this holiday season as they work toward self-sufficiency.

To sponsor a refugee family during Light One Candle, kindly follow these steps:

  1. Read through the Light One Candle FAQ and decide the number of individuals you or your group would like to sponsor.
  2. Submit your Light One Candle Sponsorship FormBy filling out this form, you are confirming your commitment and availability as a sponsor. Your request will be received by our development team who will work to match you with a refugee family or individual(s) by November 21st.* Once matched, you will be sent a wish list for each individual or family. Cultural background information and family demographics will be included with the wish lists.
  3. Purchase or gather new items to fulfill a portion of the wish list, or you can choose to fulfill the entire wish list.
  4. Deliver wish list items, unwrapped, to the IRC in Salt Lake City office. Due to the IRC's responsibility to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the people we serve, we are unable to support direct deliveries to families. 
  5. Donation receipts will be provided to all in-kind donors by the end of January 2024.

*Please note that due to increased interest in supporting the work of the IRC in Salt Lake City, some sponsors who sign up after November 10th may be placed on a wait list to be paired with a family. Sponsors who are on a waitlist will be notified by November 21st. 

If you have any questions, kindly feel free to reach out by email at [email protected].

Light One Candle gift delivery in trunk of car
Light One Candle gifts are brought from the IRC office to refugee family homes.
Photo: James Roh

Light One Candle FAQs

How much should I budget per person?

Each refugee family and individual will create a wish list with the help of their caseworker. The sponsor is responsible to fulfill a portion or the entirety of the wish list. Last year, the average amount spent per individual was $200. Sponsors are given a broad list of items on each wish list; however, the family will prioritize a list of five high-need items they hope to receive. 

I'd like to donate, but I don't think I'll be able to sponsor a family. What should I do?

There are many items the IRC uses to ensure each family receives an equal number of gifts. We encourage donors to purchase gift cards to large chain stores, like Walmart, Smith's, or Target (preferably in amounts between $20 and $50). 

In addition to gift cards, we are always in need of items like new microwaves, rice cookers, vacuums, sewing machines, flat screen TVs, teapots/kettles, laundry detergent, dish soap, razors, feminine pads and baby wipes. You can also learn more about our current in-kind donation needs by visiting our Donations Opportunities page.

Looking for an easy way to support our work and the refugees we serve? Purchase an item from our Amazon Wishlist and have it shipped directly to our office.

Can I donate used items?

We are able to accept both new and like-new donations of items on a family’s wish list. We use the terms "gently used" or "like-new" to remind people to give items that are still in working condition and aren't showing too much wear. Kindly note we are unable to accept used toys, clothing, linens, and towels. Any gently used electronics should be less than five years old.

We hope that each family or individual will receive new items, but your gently used items are important to us too. Please note, we reserve the right to refuse used items that do not meet donation standards.

Is food/alcohol an acceptable gift?

Because a large number of IRC clients have different dietary restrictions dictated by their culture, religion, or health needs, we discourage donors from giving food as a gift. Alcohol is not acceptable.

Can my family deliver gifts to the refugee family or individual we sponsor?

For safety and privacy concerns, sponsors will be asked to bring gifts to the IRC in Salt Lake City office. Gifts will be distributed to each family by IRC staff and background checked IRC volunteers. Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange any meetings between sponsored families and client families. When possible, we hope to be able to send sponsors a photo of the family with their gifts, but this is not guaranteed.

Will the gifts I purchase for the refugee family or individual go to the specified family?

Yes. All gifts purchased for a specific refugee family will be given to that family; although, the IRC will distribute additional/duplicate gifts at our discretion.

Can I provide holiday gifts for an Afghan, Ukrainian or Venezuelan family or individual?

Over the past year, we continued to welcome families from around the globe, including from many countries that are frequently discussed in the media. We hope to ensure all families who participate in Light One Candle will be paired with a sponsor; however, we cannot guarantee any sponsor will be matched with a family from a particular country

Since all refugees come from outside the U.S., are there sensitive cultural issues I need to be aware of?

For some sponsors, Light One Candle is something they do to celebrate the holidays. Like anyone, refugee individuals and families arrive with their own religious and/or cultural beliefs. Some of those beliefs may or may not be shared with donors sponsoring the family through the event. Please keep this in mind as you are selecting gifts and sharing messages. You should avoid religious gifts and messages.

Are the items I donate tax deductible?

Yes. The items you donate through Light One Candle count as in-kind donations. In our series of communications to all sponsors, we will provide instructions to ensure you receive a tax-deductible receipt by the end of January 2024. However, our advice: save your purchase receipts!

It is critical for our funding purposes that you provide us with copies of purchase receipts from all your purchases. Doing so helps the IRC meet critical reporting requirements and allows us to access funds to help refugees find jobs, stay housed and access transportation. Tax-deductible donation receipts will be provided to all sponsors by the end of January 2024. 

Additional Questions? Please email us at [email protected]. Thank you for supporting newly arrived refugees this holiday season!