Staff Photo: John Bohn Alicia Wehner, right, represents Amy Greiner as Annandale Village kicks off a fundraising event where 16 community leaders compete to raise money for the developmental disability facility. The winner of the fundraising campaign will kiss a pig in November. At left is Nick Masino of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerece.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- For the first time being involved in a political campaign, Nick Masino wouldn't mind second place.
The former Suwanee mayor joined 15 other candidates on Thursday at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse to unveil a fundraising campaign that coincides with election season. The campaign, called "Kiss A Pig," involves community leaders who are competing to raise money for the Annandale Village. The "Pig" theme plays off the acronym of "People Invested in Giving."
The campaign, which uses plenty of puns and plays on words, began on Thursday and ends on Nov. 1.
Keith Fenton, chief development and marketing officer at Annandale, said candidates will compete for "Hamerica's vote" and the winner will smooch the swine on "InHOGaration Day."
Each candidate has committed to raise at least $5,000, and some have pledged $20,000 to $30,000, Fenton said, with each dollar pledged from friends, family, business colleagues and others representing a vote.
Fenton said the fundraising campaign could top the $200,000 goal that the organization raises in the spring with its annual Jazzy Thing event.
It's the first program of its kind for Annandale, Fenton said.
Fenton said the economic downturn has strained families of villagers, and the facility recognizes it must raise more money to elevate its level of service.
The candidates are 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, Ed Szczesniak of the Suwanee Business Alliance, 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, Houston Bass of BB&T, Amy Greiner of Edward Jones, former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Wayne Hill and Elliot Brack of the Gwinnett Forum.
Kontaxis said his family has owned the restaurant in Columbus for 48 years, and his employees would help contribute to his campaign. Kontaxis said he finds helping Annandale "quite fulfilling" in large part because of what the villagers get out of it.
"So many of them don't realize they have a disability," he said.
The winning candidate will get to kiss a pig in November. At Thursday's campaign kickoff event, candidates made several references to any connections they've had with pigs, pig farmers, or in-laws, which brought laughs from the crowd.
"I've never been in a contest to kiss a pig," Masino said. "But it's definitely an election I'm OK coming in second place."
Masino and several candidates said they would use social media to collect votes. Masino had already changed his profile picture on several sites to his campaign sign.
Hill said he was asked to join the campaign by Michael Dominy, a member of Annandale's Board of Trustees.
"I couldn't tell him no for anything," Hill said.
Hill has been involved in Annandale's Jazzy Thing for several years, and said he would use social media and his grandchildren's connections on social media to collect votes.
"When I ran for office, I never had a problem raising money," Hill said with a laugh. "This may be different."
The candidate who had a donation out of the gate on Thursday was Szczesniak, who had $5,000 toward his campaign. When he was asked to join the campaign, Szczesniak said "heck yeah."
"There are so many causes in town, but it's right here in our backyard," he said.
Annandale has created a logo for the event, and campaign signs similar to road signs for political candidates. There is also a website, kiss-a-pig.com, where contributors can make tax-deductible donations. Piggy banks in retail businesses and T-shirts are available around town.
Fenton said most of the candidates were asked to join the campaign, but they were selected because they either had a previous connection to Annandale or have previously contributed something to the community through leadership or volunteering.