WHAT WE THINK: It’s time to find a better way for charities to collect money

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Like the inevitability of the flowers blooming each spring, we await the annual gauntlet of driving through our town’s streets.

Each year as the weather warms we’re inundated with charities lining up at stoplights, buckets in hand and crazy hats on their heads, seeking donations from drivers.

It’s not that we mind giving to charity or even traffic slowing down as most cars proceed with caution around those seeking donations for their charity. Although we do question if this is the best way to collect money.

But the problem is not all cars slow down and not all of those seeking money to help animals, graduation, children, etc. are paying very close attention.

We noticed a few instances just this weekend during the WHAS Crusade for Children collection – one of the more popular instances for standing in the street for collections – where accidents nearly occurred.

A driver feeling particularly charitable stopped at a green light near Walmart to drop some change in a fireman’s bucket, and two cars nearly rammed into the back of magnanimous driver.

Another driver, at that same intersection, had wide mirrors on the side of a truck, but the benevolent firefighter, or other helper, was not paying close attention and was nearly clipped by the mirror. If the driver had not had a close eye on the collector, a serious injury could have occurred.

Those are only two incidents and take into account only a few minutes at one intersection and only this year.

In the past we’ve seen bored children swinging buckets in the line of oncoming traffic.

We’ve seen adults standing on the centerline talking on the phone and not watching cars.

We’ve young adults skip through oncoming traffic trying to get from the median to the side of the street but for some reason unable to wait for the light to change.

And while we are proud of the giving nature of our community – one which continues to surprise us every year with its wide net of generosity – we are also scared to death by the continued practice of standing in the street to collect handouts.

The concern is not if someone is seriously injured but when. Each year we notice more and more people not paying attention to the oncoming traffic and more and more distracted drivers.

As an alternative there are many better, more efficient and most importantly safer ways to solicit funds for several of these very worthy causes.

For one, the parking lots at Walmart, Kroger, Rural King and the Family Activity Center are always teeming with visitors – not to mention the new Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass set to open in July. The Salvation Army has put together a blueprint for using population centers as collections, and considering they come back every Christmas, we’re assuming their collections sites do quite well.

For instance, several families we know find them selves frequenting each of these locations every weekend, and sometimes more than once.

You’re bound to have a couple dollars or a few quarters as you walk in, and if you don’t you can plan accordingly on the way out. But when you stop at a light, only when the light is red, of course, you may not have anything available to hand out.

Another safer course would be to send flyers through the mail or stuff into mailboxes in neighborhoods.

This would give those wishing to donate a reminder, and offer them the ability to write a check, which could then be added to their annual tax return.

And, finally, if in the street collections is the only way to go, how about allowing collections only at 4-way stops, like the intersection of Old Eminence Pike and 7th Street near the Shelby County Jail.

At that location – which is very popular on the weekends as family head to the park – at least cars are required to stop before moving on and only a few collectors would be needed.

While we hope our community continues to be as generous and helping as it has always been, we just want to make sure that the next collection isn’t for one of our own was severely injured or killed while trying to raise money for others.