The Watchdog

When fundraising stops traffic, is it safe?

Updated: 2013-11-06T22:27:23Z

The problem

Charities have to get their money, and the Dog gives two paws up for humans digging into their wallets to give to others. But what about when collecting the money becomes a safety hazard?

Joe Hawblitzel of Kansas City has nothing against charitable organizations, but he is worried about money collections at busy intersections.

He reported that at Missouri 152 and Church Road, and then a block away at Flintlock Road, he saw a serious traffic jam caused by volunteers who said they were collecting money for the March of Dimes. He saw people with cans darting across six lanes of traffic. Cars idled on green lights as drivers looked for money.

So Hawblitzel wants to know: Does the March of Dimes really encourage this kind of solicitation, with obvious dangers to volunteers? Does the city regulate this type of activity? He said he has seen other groups soliciting funds at the same intersections.

The answer

The Dog has been darting around trying to find an answer, Joe.

Laura Lewis, a communications representative with the Greater Kansas Chapter of the March of Dimes, said these volunteers were collecting for the Bikers for Babies event. The organizer has about 75 volunteers who stand on street corners throughout the year and ask for change.

Although March of Dimes does what it can to oversee activity, she said, the volunteers aren’t staff members and the organization can’t control what they do.

“We try to do what we can where needed, but they do it all on their own,” she said, adding that March of Dimes staffers raise money in other ways.

“Bikers for Babies is a pretty unique case,” she said.

This unorthodox method is working, though. Last year the bikers raised almost $120,000.

Kansas City Police Capt. Tye Grant said this type of collection is allowed and protected as freedom of expression, but if the fundraisers are impeding traffic, it’s another story. Police will get involved in those situations.

The Watchdog says that if unorthodox methods can raise $120,000 for the March of Dimes, perhaps it will enhance courtship too. Orthodox methods have stalled out where the perky little papillon is concerned.

Do you have a problem or a question about a public issue? Write to the Watchdog, The Kansas City Star, Newsroom, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108, or send email to watchdog@kcstar.com. Include your name, phone number and city of residence.

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