Rarely does a company come into my life that gets me excited. Most I encounter pay some lip service to being charitable and giving back while all the time eying the bottom line of profitability for the company and often providing excuses of why they don't do more or promises of how they will. In other words, I find many companies that espouse their commitment to community involvement and philanthropic work could do better to benefit the area in which they operate.
Today, however, I am pleased to share that Tom's of Maine has done more than pay simple "lip service" to giving back. For the fourth year, Tom's of Maine has directly engaged with the nonprofit sector in its annual "50 States For Good" contest. Each year, the company tries to do good by giving back. This year while changing the format they kept their commitment strong having 15 organizations shared in the prize of $150,000.
In full disclosure, I was delighted to be asked again to serve as one of the four national judges on this year's panel with Sam Davidson, President of Cool People Care, Matt Petronzio, assistant features editor covering social good for Mashable.com and Ian Somerhalder, actor and star of "The Vampire Diaries" as well as founder of the nonprofit IS Foundation.
Our job was to take the list of nominations given to us by Tom's of Maine and narrow it down to 51, one organization per state (plus the District of Columbia) that supports "healthy, human and environmental goodness." There were initially more than 1,000 nominations. To narrow down the list, an online voting contest whittled the field down to the top 15 nonprofits. Over 58,000 votes were cast and the top 15 charities will receive $10,000 in support of their project.
The winners are listed below in alphabetical order with a quick summary of how they are Making A Difference ® in their community and state every day.
• Cape Ann Farmers Market Backyard Growers Program (Gloucester, MA) - Backyard Growers will enhance and expand the school garden program, which provides elementary school students with opportunities to grow, harvest and eat fresh vegetables.
• Connecticut Radio Information System (Windsor, CT) - Ten schools will receive a one-year subscription of CRISKids for Schools, audio recordings of print materials for children who are blind or print-challenged, including those with learning, physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities.
• Gilda's Club Quad Cities (Davenport, IA) - A new program called G.R.O.W. (Giving Resources Organically Within) will plant an organic community garden and provide workshops on sustainability for members who have all been impacted by a cancer diagnosis.
• Kompost Kids (Milwaukee, WI) - A large scale food waste collection and processing pilot will be executed in the Milwaukee area in order to divert from the landfill and create compost to sustain urban agriculture projects.
• Michael T. Goulet Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy Foundation (Saco, ME) - The Foundation's efforts to advance brain safety and awareness in Maine will be expanded and serve as a model program for other states.
• MISSION POSSIBLE KIDS (Plano, TX) - 5,000 existing and 1,000 new program participants will be empowered to make a social impact on their communities, enacting service-oriented "top secret missions" to change the world and impact thousands in need.
• Mountaineer Food Bank (Gassaway, WV) - The Mobile Pantry Program will provide healthy, nutritious foods to people in need in rural or under served areas of West Virginia.
• Neighbor Ride (Columbia, MD) - The expansion of Neighbor Ride's volunteer program will aid in continuing to serve the growing number of seniors who rely on the Neighbor Ride transportation service to remain healthy, independent and connected to the community.
• One Simple Wish (Trenton, NJ) - More than 100 simple, special wishes will be granted to children in foster care.
• Operation BBQ Relief (Pleasant Hill, MO) - Funding will purchase the perishable supplies necessary to feed approximately 10,000 meals during the organization's next disaster deployment.
• Play-Place for Autistic Children (Sterling Heights, MI) - Building a new playscape will help to advance the coordination, climbing, balance and motor-planning skills of children affected by autism.
• Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (Mount Vernon, WA) - InFARMation radio programs will provide information to area highway travelers about seasonal happenings in Skagit agriculture and help grow community support for the organization's mission.
• The Poverello Center (Missoula, MT) - Completing the construction of a new emergency housing facility will aid in feeding and sheltering thousands of area neighbors living in poverty each year.
• Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (Warren, OH) - Up to 100 free-standing flower boxes, soil and plants will be made available to residents of the Garden District to help the neighborhood earn its name.
• Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park (Gansevoort, NY) - Funding will support the start of the organization's accessible trail project.
In a time when cynicism can abound about motivations behind corporate giving programs and activities, this company shines a light showing us all how easy it can be to begin Making A Difference ®. What will you do today to be M.A.D.? I would submit that the world is waiting for you to begin and that this company provides an example for many others to emulate.
Follow Lisa M. Dietlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisadietlin