By: Mary Alford, The News-Enterprise
Although Elizabethtown officials are discussing eliminating the issuing of permits for highway solicitation, the WHAS Crusade for Children remains a top priority.
The Crusade, established by WHAS-TV in 1954, raises money for schools, agencies and hospitals geared toward making life better for children with special needs. According to its website, in its first 64 years, the Crusade raised $175 million. Of that, 100 percent of all donations are returned to organizations in all 120 Kentucky counties and more than 50 southern Indiana counties.
City council members discussed ending highway solicitation at Monday’s work session in Elizabethtown, a method many charities and nonprofits, including Crusade for Children, use to raise money for their causes.
The recommendation to eliminate issuing permits for highway solicitation came from Maj. Jamie Land, Elizabethtown Police Department’s deputy chief of patrol and operations, who will take over as EPD’s police chief in September. The move would include prohibiting firefighters working on behalf of the WHAS Crusade for Children.
Fire departments raise nearly 60 percent of the money each year for the Crusade by staging road blocks and other events, President and CEO of WHAS Crusade for Children Dawn Lee said.
“It’s the traditional way of collecting. That has been the way for years,” she said.
The current city ordinance allows highway soliciting only by charitable organizations with an association to Hardin County. It requires those who solicit on roadways to wear reflective vests and have some sort of lights visible.
Land said the city has issued 26 permits this year, meaning almost every summer weekend results in charities collecting between lanes on North Dixie, the busiest road in the area.
The permit volume is up from the 18 issued for 2016. Those numbers do not include the Elizabethtown Fire Department collecting money for nonprofit organizations such as the Crusade for Children.
Land said Monday the vehicle traffic count along North Dixie near Towne Mall, in both directions, is about 34,928 for 2016. He also said 80 percent of all crashes in the city occur on Dixie.
Elizabethtown Fire Chief Mark Malone said along with them, Valley Creek and Central Hardin Fire Departments also do fundraising within the city for the Crusade.
He said there is no doubt banning the issuing of permits to solicit money will affect their fundraising efforts, they just don’t know how much.
However, Malone said they are looking at alternative forms of fundraising, such as payroll deduction, open houses at the fire station and having boots set up at different shopping centers.
If people want to donate, they can call the station or send a message on Facebook and Malone said the department will send a uniformed firefighter out to pick up the donation.
“If folks jump on this band wagon, it will be more efficient, … and less stressful on the community as a whole,” he said.
Malone said he spoke to a couple of women after Monday’s work session and said they expressed they were uncomfortable being stopped in the road for money.
Vine Grove resident Kristi Harding said she sees where it is a danger because motorists aren’t given enough advanced warning they are approaching a collection point. However, she said road blocks have advantages for the organizations.
“I think it is very good for the organization to get those donations in that way. Most of time people have slowed down, but I don’t ever see a huge wreck,” she said. “I love being able to donate to those. … We all have to stop at that stop light anyways.”
Harding said it would be a “major disappointment” to take money from any organization by eliminating the permitting for highway soliciting. But, she does understand the safety concern.
Though they are somewhat disappointed, Lee said firefighter safety is important. She noted more than $70,000 typically is raised every year in the city and all money goes back into the local community.
“Money that is raised in the community goes back into the community,” she said. “It won’t just impact us, it will have a circular impact.”
Lee said the less money collected means the less money they are able to put back into the community to help children, such as Hardin Memorial Health, Hardin County Schools and Elizabethtown Independent Schools. The money also goes toward numerous other organizations geared toward assisting children, Lee said.
“They are really great organizations doing great things for children with special needs,” she said. “Once something like this happens we have to try to figure out a way to make it work. We have to learn what the parameters are and learn how to operate within them. …
“We’ll be committed to working with these fire departments to make that happen,” she added.
Councilman Ron Thomas, who was vocal at the work session about his support for the Crusade for Children, said Tuesday his plan is to ask that highway solicitation not be put on the agenda for the Aug. 7 vote.
“That will give Dawn more time to bring facts and figures and allow us to discuss it in fuller detail,” he said, noting Lee wants to meet with local fire organizations and could be in town to speak with the council at an Aug. 14 session.
“It’s been a long standing thing in this community and I would certainly fight for the cause,” he added. “Hopefully we’ll round up some support and possibly come up with something that is acceptable.”
Tracee Troutt, HMH chief marketing and development officer, in a statement said, while she cannot speak to the rationale for stopping roadblock collecting, she can speak to the value WHAS Crusade for Children brings to the hospital and the 400,000 patients from 10 Central Kentucky counties it serves.
“I think most would agree the crusade and the Firefighters who collect each year for them, operate with organization, excellence and safety,” she said. “However, since 2002, the crusade has returned $752,101.34 to Hardin Memorial Health alone. In the last two years, they invested over $500,000 in the region’s only HMH Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Without the crusade, the HMH NICU would not have been fully equipped.”
“That is an amazing return on the monies our firefighters collect each year and that does not include the money awarded by the WHAS Crusade for Children to many other local charities,” she added. “We hope the city helps to ensure the community has as an effective way to support Crusade if roadblock collections end.”
WHAS Crusade for Children is not the only organization to use highway solicitation. Several other organizations throughout the community, such as the Alnahda Temple, Heart of Hope, Kosair Shrine and Riasok, among others, also use roadblocks to solicit money.
“I think it would be a major disappointment to take away money from an organization like that,” Harding said. “Shriners personally helped my son. I would hate to see something like that taken away from them.”
Several other cities in the state already ban such roadblocks for soliciting money including Winchester, Cynthiana, Mount Sterling, Carlisle and Georgetown.