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Making a Difference: The World of Giving -- "50 STATES FOR GOOD" Announces Those Organizations Doing the Most Good

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Today, the well-known company, Tom's of Maine, announced the winners of its fourth annual "50 States For Good: Growing Good Works One Community at a Time" contest. Back in May, Tom's of Maine began accepting nominations for nonprofit organizations in each state. Then the field was narrowed down by a judge's panel to 51, one organization per state (plus the District of Columbia) that supports "healthy, human and environmental goodness." I was so lucky and grateful to be chosen as one of the judges on this year's panel with fellow judges actor Ian Somerhalder, of the IS Foundation, Laura Burge, the editor and producer of Care 2, and Sam Davidson, the founder and president of Cool People Care. The 51 finalists were voted on by the public and the top six will share the $150,000 prize. Below are the 2012 winners and a little about what they are doing to make a difference in their state every day.

The Grand Prize winner of $50,000 is inCOMMON Community Development of Omaha, Nebraska. inCOMMON works to eradicate homelessness while strengthening and uniting vulnerable neighborhoods. Their Grand Prize winnings will go towards their Capital Campaign to build a community resource center in the Park Avenue Neighborhood of Omaha. This resource center will allow low-income individuals to receive assistance and services to increase their personal and professional success.

The first of the five $20,000 winners is Brown Bag Ministry in Apex, North Carolina who provides not only brown bag lunches and hot meals to the hungry, but also provides these people with clothing, shelter and counseling. The money will help them to continue their work and expand outside the Apex, Durham, Raleigh, Wake Forest and Wendell area.

Genoa Central Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) of Genoa, Alaska is the second $20,000 winner. This PTO works to enhance the educational experience at Genoa Central Schools. Project Playground will benefit from the winnings as Genoa Central PTO looks to renovate two rundown and out of date playgrounds.

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative of Golden, Colorado will make a difference by using its winnings to build and reconstruct ecologically-sustainable summit trails and educate hikers on Leave No Trace guidelines.

The next winner is Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A.). G.A.L.A. helps members of its Wolfeboro, New Hampshire neighborhood create sustainable homes and yards one makeover at a time (think Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - the Sustainable Version). The funding will allow G.A.L.A. to provide 50 makeovers which include solar hot water systems and rain barrels.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Glacier Institute. It hosts thousands of elementary students each year at its Big Creek Outdoor Education Center located in Montana's Flathead National Forest. With this money, they will add solar and wind powered generating systems to the Center as well as develop new curriculum to educate all visitors on these systems.

Congratulations to each of these nonprofit organizations and a BIG thank you for Making A Difference® (M.A.D.) today and every day in your community. You set excellent examples on how to be M.A.D. for up-and-coming nonprofits.

If a nonprofit you know wasn't nominated or selected, don't fret! There is always next year to nominate and vote. Look for the 2013 Tom's of Maine "50 States For Good™: Growing Good Works One Community at a Time" contest and be M.A.D!

To learn about Tom's of Maine, the winners and the contest please visit http://www.tomsofmaine.com/.