Firefighters seek change to anti-solicitation ordinance

By Laura Geller - bio | email

HANOVER, VA (NBC12) - Firefighters were out in full force Saturday raising money for muscular dystrophy.

But this time, they were in front of the Hanover Wal-Mart, not out in the streets where they'd like to be year round.

County supervisors are considering a ban on such solicitation.

While they raise funds, volunteers are also hoping to raise awareness of their opposition to the county ordinance.

The proposal bans any sort of solicitation in intersections -- that covers anything from high school students raising money through car washes to firefighters asking for donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"Fill the Boot," it's a slogan you've probably seen on T-shirts and signs as firefighters walk parking lots and intersections raising money for charity.

Those dollars help families like Joy Elliott's.

Three of her four kids have muscular dystrophy.

"The money raised in these boots goes to research, physical therapy visits, getting medical equipment fixed," she said.

While county leaders say they support the charitable efforts, the ordinance banning those activities in intersections is about safety.

"We're concerned that somebody might not be paying attention as the county continues to grow and somebody might get hurt," said Hanover County Supervisor Ed Via.

Hanover Fire and EMS says it can earn $2,000 in just an hour in certain intersections.

While they have many other fundraising activities, the time spent on the streets has a huge impact on the yearly totals.

Firefighters are spending the next month before a public hearing trying to work out a compromise.

"We play in the street everyday, dealing with citizens' emergencies and we know how difficult that is and we understand that same difficulty will carry through to our collecting in the intersections," said Hanover Firefighter Russ Acors. "If we come up with an ordinance like this that it be countywide and include everybody, that we don't single anyone out."

As she tries to gain support for the fire department this weekend, Elliott has this message for the county board.

"Please help me, help my children," she said.

Nothing is written in stone just yet, officials say they need to know how residents feel about the ban.

They'll get that opportunity at a public hearing on October 14th in the Board of Supervisors' meeting room.

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