Fourteen grassroots volunteer efforts from across the country were recognized today during the 2015 Make A Difference Day Awards Luncheon in Washington, DC.

Make A Difference Day is the nation’s largest day of community service, bringing together millions of Americans to volunteer in their local neighborhoods and communities. It was created in 1992 by Gannett Co., Inc., along with partners Newman’s Own, Inc. and Points of Light.

Newman’s Own donated a total of $130,000, with each of the ten Make A Difference Day honorees and three City Award winners receiving $10,000 to go toward the organization of their choice. During the ceremony, a $10,000 grant from the Gannett Foundation was presented to a past national honoree for commitment to service. The Gannett Foundation is a corporate foundation sponsored by Gannett Co., Inc., which supports non-profits in communities that Gannett serves.

This year’s honorees were selected from thousands of nationwide volunteer initiatives that took place during the 2014 Make A Difference Day on October 25th, 2014. This year’s winners embraced the spirit of volunteerism with efforts ranging from building a wheelchair ramp in Arizona to cleaning up flood-ravaged homes in Michigan. These efforts have created a lasting and meaningful impact on their communities; the monetary awards will help ensure that the honorees are able to continue their projects in the years to come.

In addition to the award winners, Tony Award-winning actress, singer, and philanthropist Idina Menzel was honored for her dedication to community service through her charity, A BroaderWay Foundation. In 2010, Menzel co-founded A BroaderWay to offer girls from urban communities an outlet for self expression and creativity through arts-centered programs with an emphasis on self esteem, developing leadership qualities and striving for personal and social achievement. TODAY Show news anchor Natalie Morales served as master of ceremonies for the event.

USA TODAY is so pleased to be able to honor these amazing volunteers from across the country today for the hard work and dedication they bring to their communities. Year after year, they serve as an inspiration to us all. We take great pride in their efforts and achievements – and hope that by sharing their stories we will inspire more actions in the months and years to come,” said Larry Kramer, president and publisher of USA TODAY.

“Volunteerism was always important to Paul Newman, and Newman’s Own is proud to continue its support of Make A Difference Day. By providing the awards each year, we not only recognize those who help make a difference in others’ lives, but we also hope to underscore the need for volunteerism in this country and inspire others to join in," said David Best, president and COO of Newman’s Own, Inc.

“This year’s Make A Difference Day honorees embody the best of our nation’s spirit of service. We salute their extraordinary commitments to serve – their actions inspire us and remind us that all people have the power, opportunity, and tools to make a meaningful difference in our communities and beyond,” said Tracy Hoover, CEO of Points of Light.

The ten 2014 Make A Difference Day Award honorees are:
• John Griswold, All Hands Volunteers – Warren, MI
• Issac McFarland, Hearts for the Homeless – Shreveport, LA
• Karen Kitchel, Birthday Bag Blitz – Eagan, MN
• Makenna Schwab, Kids Helping Kids Toy Drive – Wenatchee, WA
• Terry Esau, Free Bikes 4 Kidz – Minneapolis, MN
• Joshua Williams, Joshua’s Heart-Stomping Out Hunger – Miami, FL
• Dave Bradley, Meals from the Heartland – Des Moines, IA
• The Salvation Army’s Project Bundle Up – Rochester, NY
• The Real Estate Council of Austin, Christmas in October at SafePlace – Austin, TX
• Daniel Soupiset, Canine and Kitty Coupons – San Angelo, TX

The three 2014 City Award honorees are:
• Delaware County, OH
• University City, MO
• Town of Fountain Hills, AZ

The All-Star Award goes to:
• Shaquawana Wester, Cookeville, TN

Make A Difference Day 2015 will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24. For more information and to read more about this year’s honorees, please go to www.makeadifferenceday.com.

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