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With Maytag closing its headquarters in Newton, Iowa, the town of 15,500 could use a little cheer—and five friends have the perfect plan!

Machelle Crum, Dana Gooden, Janet Graber, Donna Spidle and Carol Tweedt decide to spend their $5,000 on a wide variety of projects for Newton. First, they hand over $500 to a local high school class with instructions to "pay it forward." The students find ways to spread the money around their town in small, but meaningful, ways—like giving a whopping tip to a waitress or buying gas for strangers. One student is so inspired by the idea that he pulls a $50 bill out of his pocket to add to the fund!

The women give $300 to a nursing home activity fund to give the residents "something to look forward to." They give $500 to a local animal rescue group and pay bills for lucky people at two grocery stores and Wal-Mart, which kicks in an extra $300!

For their finale, the friends bankroll a shopping spree for three teenage sisters who have lost their mother to breast cancer. Everyone who hears about the girls wants to be a part of their day. Lane Bryant and Yonkers clothing stores each donate $1,000, and the mall adds another $250.00. Janet says the girls start out quiet and a little sad, but after their day at the mall, they are laughing and giggling—just what the Newton women were hoping for!

A newspaper reporter says the five women had an enormous impact on their community. "The ripple of generosity has spread beyond their small group and has led to reports of random acts of kindness throughout the county."

Warming up to the challenge


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