SAVOY — Leaders at the United Way of Champaign County know that, throughout the pandemic, there have been lots of local heroes behind the scenes.

Now, their organization wants to find and honor five of those people, groups, churches, organizations and businesses that have been helping make life safer and better for others.

The United Way is now seeking nominations for its new COVID-19 Difference Maker Award and plans to honor the five winners with recognition on its website and social-media pages during the week of March 1-5.

Nominations are due by Feb. 15, and United Way President and CEO Sue Grey said she’ll be surprised if the agency doesn’t receive a lot of them given all the good things people have been doing.

The United Way typically honors difference-makers in the community during its annual meeting and celebration each winter.

The in-person gathering is off this year due to COVID-19, Grey said, but agency leaders didn’t want to miss a chance to say thank-you to some of the many who have been making a difference throughout the pandemic, and to “just say thanks, and hopefully bring some smiles to the community.”

Honorees can be those who have made a difference ranging from small neighborhood to communitywide efforts.

Some — but not nearly all — examples of possible nominees can include mask-makers, volunteers, organizers of food drives and collections of personal protective equipment, and front-line workers who have gone over and above to make a positive impact.

The agency said it’s especially interested in honoring those who haven’t already been recognized.

In addition to public recognition, each winner will get a gift basket of items from Champaign County businesses and a trophy.

Nominators are being asked to submit a video of up to three minutes that mentions what the nominee has done to make a difference, plus one vivid example of how those contributions changed peoples’ lives during the pandemic and what sets the nominee apart from others in terms of character and contributions to the community.

Full instructions are on the United Way’s website at

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