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.

Two IRC volunteers carry gifts during Light One Candle
Volunteers pack gifts into vehicles to be delivered to refugee families during our Light One Candle distribution event in 2019
Photo: Daniel Lombardi/IRC

Light One Candle sponsorships will be available starting in November 2021. Please click here to express your interest in sponsoring a family.

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 refugees 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 Interest Form. Your request will be received by our development team who will work to match you with a refugee family or individual(s) by Thanksgiving.* 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, using our contactless drop-off procedures. You will receive more information about the contactless delivery process once you are matched with a refugee family or individual. As we take every precaution to keep families safe during the pandemic, gift cards are a great gift to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 
  5. Donation receipts will be provided to all in-kind donors by the end of January 2022.

*Please note that due to increased interest in supporting the work of the IRC in Salt Lake City, limited sponsorships during the holidays may be available. You may be placed on a waiting list or asked to provide general, high-need items for families who will arrive in the coming months.

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

Community members in Utah visit refugee families with gifts for the holidays.
A young girl and her family raised funds through a bake sale to fulfill the holiday wish list of a refugee family.
Photo: Amy Meyer/IRC

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 $150. 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, 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 wishlist. 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.

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 sponsor an Afghan family or individual?

Over the past few months, we have welcomed an increasing number of Afghan families to Utah. We hope to give these families the opportunity to receive gifts this year as well. 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 2022. 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 2022. 

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