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Fraidy Reiss
Union County
Unchained at Last
2019 Honoree
Gilman Choudhury
Robotics Mentor- JFK High School
2017 Honoree
Dr. Karen Monroy
Ability2Work & Grateful Bites
2019 Honoree
25th Anniversary of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Awards Melina Garcia
Union City
Union City Music Project
2019 Honoree
Zamir Hassan
Muslims Against Hunger
2014 Honoree
Melissa Gertz
Community Justice Center
2018 honoree
Eric Fuchs-Stengel
Mahwah, MEVO/Fresh Roots Farm
2012 Honoree
with Isabel Arrieche, farm manager
25th Anniversary of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Awards Lorna Henkel
First Friends of NJ & NY
2017 honoree
Jennifer Papa
City Green
2013 honoree
Benigno “Pino” Rodriguez
Block Supporters Initiative
2018 Honoree
A’Dorian Murray-Thomas
SHE Wins!
2018 honoree
Russ Berrie Holing a Teddy Bear

Mr. Russ Berrie

“There is no greater importance in life than knowing you’ve helped a fellow human being.”
-Russ Berrie 1933-2002

The Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award is administered by Ramapo College of New Jersey

It’s Time to Nominate New Jersey’s Unsung Heroes for the 25th Annual Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award

Has an Unsung Hero touched your life?  

The Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award is celebrating 25 years of honoring individuals whose selfless efforts break down barriers, improve lives, and make New Jersey a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we regrettably had to cancel the 2020 Making a Difference Award Honoree selection and ceremony. Though 2020 is behind us, the events of last year have had a profound impact. COVID-19 continues to devastate families and communities around our state. Thousands have died, businesses are struggling, and many have lost jobs. Isolation and loss of in-person connection has taken its toll, especially on vulnerable people such as the elderly, those with special needs, and their caregivers. Appalling incidents of violence across the nation show how far we have to go to address racial injustice and systemic inequality.

Yet we know New Jerseyans are resilient – and we look out for each other.

As we welcome 2021 and the 25th anniversary of the Making a Difference Award, we’re asking you to identify those people who, in the face of challenges and problems, have found ways to make a difference.

Winners of the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award come from all over New Jersey and from all walks of life. They are your friends and neighbors,  community leaders and advocates, people who saw a problem and took action to solve it. People who understood that injustice and inequity must be ended so all can have opportunity. These Unsung Heroes range in age from pre-teens to senior citizens.

Do you know, work for, or volunteer with someone who is making their community a better place? We encourage you to take a few minutes and nominate a special person you’ve encountered and give him or her the chance to be recognized for their service.

Ten outstanding individuals will be honored at our virtual 25th Anniversary Award Ceremony in May 2021.  There will be one top award of $50,000; two $25,000 awards, and up to seven $7,500 awards.

Nominate your Unsung New Jersey Hero today!

Questions?  Reach us by email at

Deadline for Nominations is 11:59 pm on Friday, February 12, 2021.


Online Nomination Form