August 4, 2010; Source: Chicago Tribune | These days, it’s getting harder and harder for some charities to catch a break. The latest example of tough times getting tougher is a decision by a Chicago village to ban volunteers from collecting donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association from motorists stopped at intersections.
Over six years, “fill the boot” fundraisers in Homewood, located 25 miles south of Chicago, have brought in some $25,000 for the charity, mostly in the form of loose change. Village officials said they took the action out of concern for safety. Still, affected charities think the ban is unfair and it will take a toll on fundraising. Expressing her disappointment, Kate Shea, regional coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said volunteers “are able to collect three or four times as much at intersections compared to store fronts and train stations” where solicitations are still permitted.
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Homewood isn’t the only Chicago suburb where open-air collections are tightly regulated. According to the Chicago Tribune, in order to solicit on the street in Aurora, Illinois’ second-largest city, groups “must be registered with the state attorney general as a charitable organization, be engaged in a state- or nationwide fundraising campaign, wear safety vests at all times and have liability insurance.” City spokesman Dan Ferrelli said the restrictions are meant to protect people from being injured and enable the city to stave off litigation. “When people are standing in the street soliciting donations, it’s common sense that they cannot pay full attention to the traffic moving around them,” he said.
The limits on street solicitation are far from universal in the state, however. Groups allowed to collect money on roadways in Chicago can solicit at intersections, but only where cars come to a complete stop and after the vehicles have stopped moving. Despite complaints, the town of Morton Grove is taking a more charitable stance toward the practice. Officials there still permit charities to solicit from motorists. Joe Wade, the village administrator, says, “There are pros and cons to banning the practice. Motorists might like it, but fundraising groups would suffer.”—Bruce Trachtenberg