At the conclusion of the four-month Reader's Digest We Hear You America contest, Collingswood stood among ten $5,000 prize winners.
Thanks to some late campaigning that culminated in a Tuesday-night community vote party, Collingswood rose from 20th to 16th place in the sweepstakes, cementing a cash-prize finish at the 11:59 pm deadline March 1.
For Cass Duffey, Collingswood director of community development, the money was secondary to the sense of civic engagement the contest provided.
"The $5000 is a terrific bonus, but this is just as much about town pride--and the people here really have pride in this place," she said. "We got to meet so many great people over the course of this campaign and I wish I could thank everyone personally."
Collingswood Mayor James Maley has expressed his wishes that the prize money be used to help beautify the community in some way through a public art, gardening, or commemorative project that would memorialize the victory.
According to Reader's Digest, more than 30 million votes were cast by residents of communities in all 50 states. Collingswood was the lone New Jersey representative to finish in prize contention.
The list of cash prize winners (subject to verification) includes:
- Lake City, IA - $50,000 (population: 1,578)
- Higginsville, MO - $25,000 (pop. 4,498)
- Minot, ND - $25,000 (pop. 40,888)
- El Paso, IL - $10,000 (pop. 2,870)
- Lake Andes, SD - $10,000 (pop. 1,805)
- Weaubleau, MO - $10,000 (pop. 560)
- Rossville, KS - $10,000 (pop. 1,151)
- Beavertown, PA - $10,000 (pop. 1,792)
- Joplin, MO - $5,000 (pop. 49,024)
- Ericson, NE - $5,000 (pop. 104)
- Red Boiling Springs, TN - $5,000 (pop. 1,028)
- Chenoa, IL - $5,000 (pop. 1,785)
- Appleton City, MO - $5,000 (pop. 2,202)
- Taylorville, IL - $5,000 (pop. 11,264)
- Frisco, TX - $5,000 (pop. 116,989)
- Collingswood, NJ - $5,000 (pop. 13,926)
- Richville, NY - $5,000 (pop. 323)
- Needles, CA - $5,000 (pop. 4,844)
Reader's Digest North America president Dan Lagani spoke on his wishes that the money distributed by the contest would help to lift spirits in small towns across the country.
“The last few years have been very difficult for families and towns alike," Lagani said in a statement. "However, even in these challenging times, Americans still rally their communities to bring about positive change. It’s a testament to the resilience of the American spirit.”
In the same press release, Reader's Digest expounded on his sentiments:
"During the course of the campaign, local residents from across the country have expressed their hometown pride and identified worthwhile community initiatives, from repairing towns that had suffered natural disasters, to renovating historically significant buildings, to creating parks and recreation centers for families, and much more...
"A common theme of the winning towns was their ability to rally local citizens to vote. There were holiday vote-a-thons at local libraries and voting parties at local restaurants. Local media also weighed in, providing welcome coverage highlighting and promoting community efforts to get out the vote."
The publisher is next moving forward with its America’s Most Interesting Town campaign--so if you don't have contest fatigue or repetetive stress injuries from repeated voting, check it out.