GREENFIELD — The Fill the Boot campaign is on, now that city officials have agreed to let firefighters collect change in the streets this year for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Members of the Greenfield Fire Department will collect change from motorists starting today and continuing Sept. 5 and Sept. 12. Two weeks ago, the annual donation drive to send local children to MDA camp was in jeopardy because of a city law that prohibits soliciting money in the streets.
Wednesday, the Greenfield City Council unanimously agreed to allow the fundraiser, pointing out that another ordinance on record conflicts with the prohibition. Besides, Mayor Chuck Fewell added, the firefighters have gone above and beyond what he asked to ensure the fundraiser is safe.
“I was not opposed to doing this, but I have other things I have to worry about with liability,” Fewell said.
The firefighters gained a $5 million liability policy from the MDA, five times more than the $1 million policy the MDA provides to most communities. Plus, Fewell said, they gained permits from the Indiana Department of Transportation to collect donations along state highways.
“I can promise you, moving forward, we will comply with the city and state and do it as safely as possible,” said firefighter Scott Elliott, who coordinates the Greenfield boot campaign.
At issue was a 2002 traffic code that prohibits people from soliciting money in the streets. City attorney Tom Billings said earlier this month that as long as that law was on the books, the firefighters shouldn’t be allowed to collect.
But since then, Clerk-Treasurer Larry Breese researched another, more recent law. A 2008 ordinance for itinerant merchants prohibits most street collecting, he said, but allows exceptions for several groups of people, including public safety officers holding fundraisers.
The two ordinances don’t jibe, and Wednesday night, council members didn’t know what to do with the conflict. Jason Horning suggested the 2002 ordinance be rescinded, but attorney Billings wasn’t on hand to advise the group.
Fewell suggested all of the city’s ordinances be looked over and updated so they don’t run into such conflicts in the future.
Regardless, Elliott was grateful the council decided to let the firefighters hold the fundraiser. In each of the past two years, they have raised between $13,000 and $17,000.
While part of the snafu was over safety, organizers say they will take special precautions from here on out. Last year, a firefighter walked backwards in traffic and nearly caused an accident. Firefighter Jason Davis said they will be sure the collections are done safely. Firefighters should only collect at red lights; they’ll wear orange safety vests; cellphone use is prohibited during collections; and firefighters are expected to keep an eye on each other.
While collections start today, the department already has a leg up. It takes $800 to send one child with a muscular disease to summer camp. Because of news coverage of the problem with the ordiance, the community has already stepped in and started donating, Elliott said.
One woman stopped at the fire department and gave $80, for example, after she heard about the dispute. Children from Active Tots Daycare chipped in money, and firefighters collected at a car show last weekend held as another fundraiser for Meals on Wheels.
Elliott said they’ve collected nearly $1,000 so far, and they’re thankful for the community support. Collections will take place off and on from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and the following two Fridays at the corners of Broadway and Main streets; and State Street and McKenzie Road.
Members of the Greenfield Fire Department will hold the Fill the Boot campaign today, Sept. 5 and Sept. 12 at the intersections of Main and Broadway streets and State Street and McKenzie Road. Firefighters will be there off and on from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Motorists are encouraged to drop spare change in the firefighters’ boots for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Funds send local children with muscular diseases to summer camp.