Elfies help The Salvation Army of Savannah, Georgia get a jump on Christmas

Sep 29, 2019 | by Brad Rowland

Elfies help The Salvation Army of Savannah, Georgia get a jump on Christmas

By: David Ibata

Santa's elves decked out in red and green and jingle bells are a little off season on a hot July day in Savannah. Yet grabbing people's attention to tell them about The Salvation Army was the point of a recent "Elfie" campaign in the coastal Georgia city popular with tourists.

The idea was hatched in a brainstorming session with the Savannah Corps' new media partner, WJCL, the local ABC-TV affiliate, said Larry Haskell, Salvation Army development director.

"We said, why don't we do something fun in the summertime?" Haskell said. "It's a notoriously slow period. There are a lot of folks in town, and there's no other nonprofit working on anything at the time. How do we get something up on social media, get people engaged?

"We said, let's get some elves on board and make some magic."

The Elfie campaign – as in, Take a Selfie with an Elfie – was born. It would be part of an overall "Festive Fun in the Sun" effort to spread the word about The Salvation Army's works and line up support for the 2019 Red Kettle Campaign.

"We started the whole thing the first of July with little news bits mid mornings on WTOC," the local CBS affiliate, Haskell said. "On Monday, July 8, we started at 5:30 a.m. giving major interviews on WJCL about what we'd be doing. And we had staff members dress up as elves – I was one of them."

Six elves outfitted gratis by Salvation Army partner Acme Costumes broke loose from the Savannah Theatre (another partner) and were chauffeured around town by Dan Vaden Chevrolet and Cadillac (ditto), with Chatham County Sheriff John T. Wilcher riding herd on the mayhem. (Other partners included SunTrust Bank, Lesley Francis Public Relations, Panera Bread, South Magazine and the Coastal Heritage Society.)

The elf brigade was joined by students from area theater groups as they engaged residents and visitors around Savannah, Pooler and Tybee Island the next four days. People were invited to snap selfies with the elves and upload them to the Savannah Salvation Army Facebook page with the hashtag, #elfieSAV.

Those who did so by 3 p.m. Thursday, July 11, were entered into a drawing to win tickets plus lodging to an Atlanta Braves game. More than 2,000 entries were received, said Major Paul Egan, corps officer in Savannah.

The event produced 11 new sponsors for 22 kettles. As of mid-July, the Savannah Corps had pledges of more than $78,000 in cash and in-kind gifts toward a 2019 fundraising goal of $250,000.

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