Fondness for his hometown was a catalyst for Steve Ellerbrake’s creation of the Facebook page, “My O’Fallon,” to engage residents and potential newcomers about the joys of living here.
The social media page’s growing popularity indicates that he is not alone in his enthusiasm for the third-largest city in the metro-east. Since he started the page April 25, 1,171 people have “liked” it.
“I wanted to reach people interested in moving to O’Fallon,” said Ellerbrake, who is a real estate broker. “We wanted to create a positive perception and convince people to move here. It’s a great way to tout the community.”
He administers the page but allows others to post. “It’s a page where you can post anything related to O’Fallon. You can also use it to find your lost dog or congratulate your sports team or advertise your charity fundraiser but please don’t sell stuff here,” he announced at the start.
“I thought what would the residents want to know about O’Fallon? There is always stuff going on,” he said.
“I’ve seen examples of other communities reaching people this way. You have to refine approaches in this digital marketing world. You have to find ways to appeal to people, reach them in a manner that they like, and that is video. Video is king,” he said.
The biggest surprise for him has been reaction to the weekly video spotlighting a local business every Friday.
Now he uses high-definition good quality video and professional editing software, but his first video recorded on his iPhone at Wood Bakery on National Doughnut Day June 3 has had the most views to date — 22,000. It has 179 shares and 337 likes to date.
“It wasn’t as professional as much as it was authentic,” he said.
A new popcorn shop had 11,000 views, a recent fresh fish and reptile store had 7,700 views and 90 shares, and the latest posting on an indoor garden shop has 1,700 views so far.
“I do a quick interview, and it’s been really great for their business,” he said. “It’s free. I don’t charge anything.”
Ellerbrake has always been a cheerleader for O’Fallon, after moving from St. Louis to the Old Enterprise Farm off Scott Troy Road when he was 8 years old. His parents, Richard and Johann Ellerbrake, bought the farm with several other families.
So he knows firsthand the town’s metamorphosis from rural roots to booming metropolis.
Except for his college years spent at Saint Louis University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in international business management in 1987, Ellerbrake has lived in O’Fallon.
“My roots run deep. We have had five generations on that farm,” he said.
His oldest son, Trevor, 29, lives there now. His daughter Morgan, 20, lives in downtown O’Fallon; his son Jake, 19, is majoring in cinematography at Columbia College in Chicago; and his daughter Reed, 16, is a junior at O’Fallon Township High School.
Since 2010, Steve has sold real estate with Re/Max Preferred and currently operates the Ellerbrake Group. Previously, he built custom homes for 25 years with his company, Ellerbrake Construction.
He graduated from OTHS in 1982 and was in the Marching Panthers. His wife, Kelly, graduated in 1984. After working in real estate, she switched careers and is a wellness consultant for doTerra, an essential oils business.
Steve Ellerbrake is active in the O’Fallon Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and on the board of directors of the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois.
“I grew up in the shadow of the Amoco sign at Clayton and Skinker,” he said. “This is definitely home. We love O’Fallon.”
“I just think the people are kind and generous. So many of my friends are here, and I will always have friends here. If someone needs something or has a rough go, there is always community assistance. People come out to help,” he said.
“Military people come back here to retire. Think about it — we have extremes in summer and winter. Why would they, when they have lived all over?”
With a population of 28,281 (2010 census), O’Fallon has grown every year since 1930, with rapid escalation in the 1990s with a building boom. Its two-mile proximity to Interstate 64 and close to St. Louis are appealing features.
“My goal was to catch people who might be interested in moving to O’Fallon. For example, if a person is transferred to Scott Air Force Base, they are not familiar with the area, and this might change their minds from moving somewhere else,” he said.
The page, motivated by increasing business, has resulted in people discovering things but also highlights a community spirit.
“People want to see positive things about their town. We are finding lots of common ground.”
For more information, visit www.Facebook.com/MyOfallon.
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: “The Golden Rule, Do Unto Others…, is the first thing that comes to mind. But one of my favorite quotes comes from Abraham Lincoln: ‘Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.’”
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: “My wife Kelly.”
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, who would it be?
A: “Isaac Newton would be fascinating to spend time with because I can think of no one with a greater intellect or who had a greater impact on the scientific revolution.”
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: “‘The Pillars of the Earth’ by Ken Follett about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. Having a custom home building company for many years gave me a special appreciation for what the characters in the book faced and what their values were based on.”
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: “My family loves to go camping and I can think of little I enjoy more than camping by a river with my family and friends. I also love fixing things.”
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
Q: What did you want to do career-wise when you were growing up?
A: “I remember wanting to be an astronaut.”
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: “I am trustworthy.”
Q: What irritates you most?
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: “Mostly classic rock but I also love bluegrass, pop, blues and about everything in between.”
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: “Meeting new people and being able to guide them through one of the biggest financial transactions they may encounter in their lifetimes.”
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: “I saw the Lotto billboard as I was driving down the road not long ago and in the ensuing moments I imagined I had won it all. I had liquidated all my possessions accept some tools and a debit card and my wife Kelly and I were going around from place to place helping communities rebuild after disasters.”
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: “I love comedies, so it would have to be Jack Black.”
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
A: “An Internet connection and a solar-powered laptop.”