The Washington Post

Loudoun County bans street fundraising, “Fill the Boot” firefighters campaign will end

A group of firefighters, Fairfax County officials and former Fire Chief Michael Neuhard (far right) gathered in 2006 to support the "Fill the Boot" program to benefit muscular dystrophy. The Fairfax firefighters annually raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. Loudoun supervisors, citing safety concerns, have banned the practice of roadside fundraising. (Fairfax County)

In Loudoun County, they’re all breaking the law now. The county Board of Supervisors last week ruled that roadside panhandling was illegal, according to the Loudoun Times-Mirror. The supervisors were well aware of the “Fill the Boot” campaign, and the regional director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association said the ban on roadside panhandling would have a devastating effect on the group’s fundraising.

So it wasn’t an easy call for the Loudoun board. But the supervisors said the safety aspect controlled the issue. “We’re just getting so many complaints from constituents,” said Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said that he’d gotten a petition signed by more than 900 people supporting the roadside ban. He said he was “delighted” by the board’s unanimous vote and that it would have a “dramatic impact on Sterling’s quality of life.” The details are in Trevor Baratko’s story here.

In Fairfax, the towns of Vienna and Herndon have passed similar bans. But the county has not shown any such inclination, said Joel Kobersteen of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2068, who helps organize the Fairfax program every year. “Our firefighters choose intersections that, above all, provide safe and quickly accessible medians and shoulders to be completely out of traffic once it begins moving,” Kobersteen told me, noting that they work in uncontrolled traffic during accidents every day.

Kobersteen said he has met families who would not have gotten medical items such as braces and wheelchairs without the MDA’s help, as well as benefit from “the research that Fairfax County ‘Fill the Boot’ helps fund in order to extend their lives and find cures to their particular neuromuscular diseases.” Last year, Fairfax County’s firefighters collected more than $568,000 over Labor Day weekend, the most in the country for the third time in the last six years.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.


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