I'm all for raising money to fight muscular dystrophy. I just donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association online.
But not through the "Fill the Boot" program, which recently slowed down traffic in Salem (Oregon) at rush hour once again, as firefighters walked up to cars stopped at red lights, asking that donations be put into a firefighter's boot.
I find this irritating and intrusive. I'm not alone, judging from some comments to a Texas newspaper story and what some friends said today when I asked them how they liked being asked to fill the boot.
Last Friday I encountered the firefighters at the Market Street and Lancaster Drive intersection, one of the busiest in town. Escaping the boot the first drive-through, after doing an errand I drove out of my way on a different return route to avoid the hassle.
How come panhandlers can't come up to your car window, nor fundraisers for any other worthy cause, but firefighters can on Fill the Boot days?
Last year the Medford City Council put its foot down and refused to allow an exception for firefighters. Good for them. Common sense ruled the day.
When it comes to enforcing the law, Medford police Chief Randy Schoen doesn't play favorites… Schoen said the City Council does not have the authority to grant an exemption that would supersede state law and allow firefighters to conduct their fund drive in the road on Highway 62.
… At the council meeting, Schoen encouraged the firefighters to find alternative methods to conduct their fund-raiser. He suggested using an area where cars can move out of the flow of traffic or in front of a business in a private parking lot, similar to the Salvation Army's red kettles at Christmas.
The Medford Police Department sets up phones to help take pledges for Jerry's Kids and its second annual "Tip a Cop" campaign is scheduled to take place at Red Robin on Sept. 29. The charity event raises money for Special Olympics with police officers filling water glasses and clearing tables in exchange for an additional tip from customers. Schoen said last year's drive was the most successful to date.
"What we did was legal and safe," Schoen said. "Cops do it for free and do it for a great cause."
Further discussion and legislation is possible, including laws that would make panhandling illegal at lighted intersections, Schoen said.
Just as they would when citizens complain about a homeless person impeding traffic to solicit, police would enforce the law if firefighters chose to act out their charity drive in the road.
Giving shouldn't be coerced. And having someone come up to your car window while you're stopped in traffic smacks of coercion to me.
With a little creative thinking, I'm sure firefighters could come up with ideas to raise money for muscular dystrophy that would be a whole lot less irritating to motorists, and even more productive for this charitable cause.
My wife and I give a lot to charities. But we almost never make a donation after getting a phone call. I tell the person, "Mail me something, and I'll take a look at it. We just don't believe in donating over the phone."
Donating through a car window when I'm at a red light is even less acceptable to me. Like the Medford police chief said, why not have firefighters hold out their boots in a highly visible parking lot next to a busy road?
That way those who want to give can, and those who don't won't be bothered or held up in traffic.
I suspect that support for Fill the Boot is connected with the public's high regard for firefighters. Which is well deserved. However, quite a few other occupations deserve an equal amount of respect.
Teachers. Nurses. Mail deliverers. Welfare workers. To name a few.
If firefighters get to walk up to stopped cars to solicit donations for a worthy cause, so should other groups. Special exemptions for Fill the Boot, as California legislation allowed, are politically correct but don't make sense.