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Annandale's 'Kiss A Pig' campaign raises $52K

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Ed Szczesniak holds Scarlet O'Hamra on Thursday night after Szczesniak raised the most money in Annandale Village's "Kiss A Pig" campaign. Szczesniak raised $9,779 through contributions that equalled votes in the election-style fundraising campaign.

Staff Photo: Keith Farner Ed Szczesniak holds Scarlet O'Hamra on Thursday night after Szczesniak raised the most money in Annandale Village's "Kiss A Pig" campaign. Szczesniak raised $9,779 through contributions that equalled votes in the election-style fundraising campaign.

SUWANEE -- As the final hours of an eight-week campaign came to a close on Thursday night, the top two competitors of Annandale Village's "Kiss A Pig" contest ping ponged back and forth as contributors fed their bottom line. And supporters thumbed their cellphones looking for updates.

But in the end, it was landscaper Ed Szczesniak, president of the Suwanee Business Alliance, who brought in $9,779 to beat out Houston Bass of BB&T, who had $9,250, in a election-style fundraising campaign to raise money and awareness for Annandale Village.

The "InHoguration" event culminated with Szczesniak kissing a real, live pig, "Scarlet O'Hamra."

"When it's personal, it's in your town, you see the good they do, you see the people that they work with, it's easier to do than maybe some national charity where you don't see the direct impact," Szczesniak said. "It's a good cause and the more people who knew and understood it, the easier it was to get people to chip in the $5 or $10 or 20 bucks."

Szczesniak credited Gwinnett philanthropists Laura and Tom Vooris for giving the bulk of the support to his campaign.

Bass said it was an awesome experience and, "I was absolutely blown away by the generosity of so many people. I had almost 90 different individuals and companies contribute."

The campaign involved 16 community leaders who competed to raise money for Annandale. The "Pig" theme played off the acronym of "People Invested in Giving."

The fundraising campaign, the first of its kind at Annandale, raised about $52,000 for facility, which serves villagers with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. The campaign counted 600 contributors.

Keith Fenton, chief development and marketing officer at Annandale, said the campaign, which featured election-style campaign signs and email blasts, measured 900,000 media impressions and reached 13,000 people.

"People recognized the importance and significance it was for Annandale," Fenton said.

Fenton said the economic downturn has strained families of villagers, and the facility recognized it must raise more money to elevate its level of service.

Seven candidates exceeded their personal goal, and six surpassed $4,000 each.

The candidates were Pam Ledbetter of Accent South Media, Judy Waters with the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia, Nick Masino of the Gwinnett Chamber, Greg Whitlock of The Whitlock Group, Dr. Suzanne Molock of Gwinnett Pediatrics, Doug Ireland, a Suwanee City Councilman, Arlene Beckles of Turner Broadcasting, Szczesniak, Susan Bacon of Palmetto Grant Consulting, Patti Elrod-Hill of the Elrod-Hill Law Firm, Rick Swan of Prudential Georgia Realty, Anthony Kontaxis of Gus's Drive-in and Restaurant, Bass, Amy Greiner of Edward Jones, former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Wayne Hill and Elliot Brack of the Gwinnett Forum.