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Prohibit curbside soliciting

Sandwhich board sign soliciting donations at US 90 and 5th Street last week.Driving around the Macclenny area late last week, you’d likely come across people soliciting cash for an organization billing itself as the Disabled Veterans Foundation.

Clad in camouflage fatigues and handing out miniature American flags, motorists got the impression they were veterans helping other vets with “food, clothing, housing and work.” That’s what it said on those sandwich signs posted at collection points.

The newspaper (and city hall) fielded numerous telephone inquiries as to just who these people were. Are they legit, callers wanted to know.

We posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page an article indicating the Plantation-based non-profit organization may not be what it’s cracked up to be. The gist: it’s unclear how much of what it collects actually ends up in the pockets of down-and-out veterans.

Yours truly spoke with one of the collectors (a nice gentleman), who made the startling revelation that until recently he had been homeless. He was part of the Disabled Veterans Foundation team moving from city to city collecting money.

He was being paid, and the non-profit was footing travel expenses for the group. He seemed truly grateful for the opportunity.

According to a Miami television station, this and other similar organizations that tug at the heart strings of Americans concerned about the fate of our veterans are out there collecting money. They are not affiliated with government agencies like the Veterans Administration, and many of them are, well, a bit on the shady side.

If you gave any of your hard-earned money to one of those solicitors last week, let’s just hope it finds its way to a vet who’s down on his or her luck.

Pardon my skepticism (I was suspicious based on the shoddy appearance of those signs — call me crazy).

And while we’re on the subject, don’t you think it’d be a good idea to ban curb side collections altogether in the city?

They’re annoying, particularly when one passes through intersections several times during a collection period.

They’re dangerous by the very fact that collectors are on the rights-of-way, often contending with turning vehicles and limited vision or, God forbid, every other driver who happens to be on a telephone or texting.

We’ll no doubt hear from worthwhile organizations like the city fire department (Jerry Lewis Telethon), cheerleaders and the like, who will argue their causes trump the annoyance and danger factors.

There are plenty of high traffic locations where such solicitations can (and often do) take place — in front of Walmart or Winn-Dixie for example. The stores don’t seem to mind, as long as the process is orderly, and they get the benefit of supporting noble causes.

The legal counsel for the Florida League of Cities said this week he was unaware of any existing ordinances banning curb side collecting. Many cities enact ordinances outlawing “panhandling” or begging for money common where homeless people hang out.

This is a bit different, but it still carries the annoyance factor.

Here’s the deal: if I want to donate to Jerry Lewis, cheerleaders, other school and civic grounds, I’ll write them a check.

Leave me and my deep thoughts in peace at the stoplight.

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