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Eastpointe might allow nonprofits to resume corner collections

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 25, 2019

EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe residents may soon be seeing the Knights of Columbus return for the group’s yearly collection.

The organization hasn’t collected in Eastpointe since 2016 after state and local regulations changed to prevent them from doing so.

“For the past two years, we weren’t allowed to solicit on the street corners like we used to,” said Alex Truesdale, a member of the Eastpointe Leo XIII 3042 chapter, based at St. Veronica’s Catholic Church. “The city of Eastpointe passed an ordinance in 2017 after a firefighter in Lansing in 2016 was hit in a road rage incident while soliciting funds. In Eastpointe — a few years ago — another man in a scooter near Nine Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue was soliciting funds, and authorities thought he was putting himself in danger doing it.”

Eastpointe officials said the change two years ago was an effort to remain in line with state law regarding collections.

“We had to follow state law,” said Eastpointe Mayor Suzanne Pixley. “We thought it was an opportunity to update the ordinance to go along with state laws, which were becoming more strict regarding collections like this. Our former director of public safety also saw that Nine Mile and Gratiot used to be much safer in the past, and people were no longer stopping before turning right even though they’re supposed to.”

Truesdale said no longer being able to collect at street corners for charities in many Michigan communities, such as Eastpointe, hurt many nonprofits, including the Knights of Columbus efforts to support the mentally disabled, which it solicits for every year on the weekend of Palm Sunday.

“The Mentally Impaired Drive is one of Knights of Columbus’ biggest fundraisers, and it was a big hit to our efforts to no longer be able to solicit on the corners,” he said. “A lot of the money goes to help out the Special Olympics and other charities, which work to improve the lives of the mentally impaired. Our chapter gives to Parents Who Care, which is a group in Macomb County; the Glen Peters School in Macomb Township; and the Arc of Macomb County.”

Last year, however, state law changed again and more leeway was allowed for groups to collect on street corners.

“Gov. (Rick) Snyder passed a bill last March, House Bill 4888, which allows the solicitation of funds so long as they adhere to certain rules. This measure would hopefully override local ordinances, which prohibit collections like this,” said Truesdale. “The mayor and three of the members expressed their support, and they seemed willing to ensure collections like this can happen. Hopefully, they will be overturning this ordinance in the near future.”

Rules addressing street corner solicitations include that groups ensure they do not impede traffic, solicitors being clearly marked and identified, the group having proper insurance for those collecting, and that all collectors be age 18 or older. Groups also have to be a qualifying nonprofit or charitable organization.

City officials said they welcome groups such as the Knights of Columbus and are discussing how to change the city ordinance.

“I can’t speak to what specifically we are going to do with the ordinance,” Pixley said. “We asked the city manager to bring forward a copy of the ordinance to review it and for him to review it himself. We want to ensure we are correlated with the state law and make sure the director of public safety approves of it from a safety perspective. We will be discussing it at the next City Council meeting.”

The Knights of Columbus collection will take place the weekend of April 12-14 in Eastpointe this year. Truesdale said he is hoping city leadership will see the good that groups like the Knights of Columbus are able to do through such collections.

“There are a lot of other groups who need support from collections like this,” he said. “People are more willing to give when they see a volunteer out on the corners. Because we couldn’t give the last couple years, our contributions were cut by about 50 percent, and we want to ensure we are giving as much as possible to these great groups.”