New City Ordinance Prevents TFD 'Fill The Boot' Fundraiser
TULSA, Oklahoma - For the first time in about 60 years, Tulsa firefighters were not out on the streets for the annual Fill the Boot Campaign.
You've probably seen firefighters out year after year collecting donations. But this year their boots are empty because of an ordinance banning anyone from taking donations in the roadways or medians.
Across the country, firefighters raise $25-million every year for the Muscular Dystrophy Association but this year Tulsa crews haven't raised a dime.
"It's a little disappointing to drive around and have our neighbors and friends and family come to us and tell us we saw it in Sand Springs, we saw it in Bixby, but know full good and well that we can't participate," said TFD's Jim Nance.
The city council says the ordinance is designed to keep people safe and out of traffic. Tulsa Police say officers issued 217 panhandling citations last year. So far this year that number is at 102. The MDA Executive Director says if it's about safety firefighters should be exempt.
"What better people to be doing that than the firefighters? They're trained to be out there, they're very careful," said Executive Director Becky Prine.
105 departments collect for the eastern Oklahoma MDA office and TFD is the largest raising $225,000 last year. Prine says collecting at storefronts won't fill the boots.
"There are way more people driving down the streets of Tulsa than there are pulling into random points across town," said Prine.
And other cities have worked around similar panhandling laws with amendments for the fundraiser. City Councilor Karen Gilbert who pushed for the ordinance says they are trying to find a solution.
"We are currently meeting with our legal department and special events to find a solution for our firefighters to help collect money for MDA," said Gilbert.
"It can still happen this fall. It doesn't have to be on a particular date,” said Prine.
Oklahoma City passed a panhandling ordinance but because of an Amendment crews were able to raise money just not as much.
OKC Firefighters raised $184,000 this year compared to the roughly $300,000 they raised before.