Call for Nominations for 25th Anniversary Making a Difference Award

MAHWAH, NJ (January 6, 2021) – Nominations for the 25th annual Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award are now being accepted. The award, established in 1997 by the late Russell Berrie ­– founder of Russ Berrie and Company, Inc. and the Russell Berrie Foundation – and Ramapo College of New Jersey, honor New Jerseyans who have made significant differences in their communities.

“2020 has been a challenging year – the devastation brought by COVID-19, the loss of lives, businesses and social connections, and horrific incidents of racial injustice,” said Angelica Berrie, President, Russell Berrie Foundation. “We’ve seen people around our state answer those challenges in inspiring ways. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Making a Difference Award, we want to celebrate and honor those who truly embrace the purpose of our awards and demonstrate our belief that nothing is more important in life than helping a fellow human being.”

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Members of the community are invited to nominate a fellow New Jerseyan and give him or her the chance to be recognized for their service. Making a Difference Honorees come from all walks of life, across all parts of New Jersey. They are people who:

  • Help others in need
  • Give their time and energy to solve community problems
  • Put others above themselves 

Each year, the Making a Difference Award presents $50,000 to one winner, $25,000 to two runners-up, and up to $7,500 to several others at a ceremony hosted by Ramapo College of New Jersey, which manages the awards program on behalf of the Russell Berrie Foundation.

To date, the award has given $3.5 million to 366 people, each of whom has an inspiring story to tell about how they made a difference.

"I never expected or thought doing what was necessary would earn me the honor of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award,” said Linda Gillick, 2015 Honoree, Founder, Ocean of Love, Toms River. “This award showed me that when you believe in something and you try to safeguard the life of your community, others are watching and paying attention.”   

Nominees will be reviewed by an Advisory Board co-chaired by Irene Cooper-Basch, Ph.D., executive officer of the Victoria Foundation, and Peter P. Mercer, J.D., Ph.D., president of Ramapo College of New Jersey. The Board, comprised of prominent New Jersey business and nonprofit leaders, will evaluate nominations submitted by individuals, community groups, houses of worship, educators, representatives of the media, and others. Awards will be presented at a virtual ceremony in May 2021. More details to follow.

The nomination form is available online at Deadline for entries is February 12, 2021.

About The Russell Berrie Foundation

The Russell Berrie Foundation was established in 1985 by Russell Berrie, an entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Russell Berrie had a passion for giving that was grounded in his deep belief in humanity, the importance of touching the lives of ordinary people, the importance of strengthening the local community in New Jersey, and the power of using philanthropy to help achieve transformational change. The Russell Berrie Foundation seeks to continue Russ’ mission by providing significant support to strengthen New Jersey’s arts, cultural, and health care institutions and celebrates everyday people who make a significant difference in the lives of others through the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award.

About Ramapo College of New Jersey

Ramapo College of New Jersey, established in 1969, is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice, and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review, and Money magazine, among others.  The campus center for performing and visual arts is named in honor of Angelica and Russ Berrie.