Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 1 - Community Relations
Rollins College and the Orlando Science Center Team up for Sweater Drive in Honor of Mr. Rogers
Ann Marie Varga, Jeni Hatter, Jeff Stanford

Golden Image Award
Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: Research/Situation Analysis: As part of a traveling exhibit, the Orlando Science Center (OSC) recreated the Mister Rogers Neighborhood as an exhibit, which was full of hands-on activities for kids. The exhibit, which was on display at the OSC from December 1, 2006 through January 1, 2007, honored Rollins College’s most famous alumnus who lived in Winter Park until he graduated in 1951. His television show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, debuted in 1968 and is the longest-running program in the history of public TV. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74. Fred Rogers was inspired by the words “Life is for Service,” which he saw engraved in marble at Rollins College. Because he dedicated his life to teaching others and encouraging them to give back to the community, Rollins College and the OSC decided to collaborate on a Sweater Drive in honor of Mr. Rogers’ legacy. After contacting a local homeless shelter, it was decided that a collection of new and gently used men’s, women’s and children’s sweaters were needed to help many people stay warm during the winter. Since he was known for his signature sweater, which he changed into for ever show, it seemed a perfect symbol and opportunity to bring the Central Florida community together to help its own neighbors.

Objectives: Our objectives were to:
1) partner with at least two other local organizations and maximize the opportunity to garner contributions to the sweater drive, 2) garner at least one media placement, 3) increase awareness about Fred Rogers’ connections and contributions to the Central Florida community through media coverage and getting the word out about the effort, 4) collect 300 sweaters for the effort, and 5) provide several Rollins students with an opportunity to participate in a community service project.

Implementation: It was decided the Sweater Drive would be held during the month of December 2006. Sweater collection boxes were decorated by Rollins students and placed at eight locations on the Rollins campus, as well as at Winter Park City Hall, the Winter Park Public Library and at the OSC. The boxes were checked and emptied weekly throughout the month. We got the word out to members of the Rollins community and the public through promotion in our internal faculty and staff electronic newsletter and on the Rollins Web site (see attachments 1 and 2). The City of Winter Park assisted by posting the Sweater Drive information on its Web site (see attachment 3) and the OSC included a story on it in SCOPE, its quarterly magazine (see attachment 4). The magazine is mailed out to more than 5,000 households in Central Florida. Another 10,000 are distributed onsite at the OSC and also at outreaches and other promotional appearances. SCOPE magazine is OSC’s main marketing and communications tool. Posters were also placed throughout the community with details on the effort (see attachment 5).
We encouraged people to look for sales on sweaters while holiday shopping and to go through their closets and donate sweaters for this worthwhile cause. It was collectively decided the best way to maximize the potential for a media story would include reaching out to individual reporters via e-mail and following up with phone calls. The main goal was for Central Florida News 13 (the local 24-hour BrightHouse Networks station) to cover the effort as a “Building Community” piece. One of the characters from the TV show, Mr. McFeely came to visit the exhibit and we invited the media to visit the OSC on that day.

Evaluation: With regard to our original objectives:
1) We worked with three other organizations, including the City of Winter Park, the Winter Park Library and the Orlando Science Center. This allowed us to maximize the opportunity to get the word out about the effort.
2) We garnered two media placements on the Sweater Drive on Central Florida News 13 for a “Building Community” feature and www.cfnews13.com (see attachment 6). When the Central Florida News 13 reporter arrived to videotape the story on the Sweater Drive, after interviewing Mr. McFeely, he decided to do an additional story on him (see attachment 7) for the station’s “Generation to Generation” segment.
3) Through publicizing the Sweater Drive via media coverage, we were able to increase awareness about Fred Rogers’ connection and contributions to the Central Florida community. The Sweater Drive piece ran 10 times on Central Florida News 13. According to PR Trak, a story measurement tracking tool, more than 127,000 people saw the story.
4) We collected more than 600 sweaters. This was double our original goal. They were donated to the Orlando Union Rescue Mission in downtown Orlando. More than 300 were given out the week of Christmas and the others were distributed in January 2007.
5) Two student organizations at Rollins (including the Student Government Association and Communiqué) and about a dozen students were able to participate in the Sweater Drive. Students assisted with the project by designing and decorating boxes, distributing flyers and e-mailing students. One Rollins student also appeared in the Central Florida News 13 story.

Budget: The cost associated with this project was about $100 and included the purchase of boxes and decorating materials for them. This was paid for by the Rollins College Office of Public Relations. Staff time involved in this project was about 15 hours and was included in employee salaries.