Council vote allows ‘Fill the Boot’ campaign to return to the streets, but Fire Chief says not so fast

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — One of the most public and visible charity campaigns, Fill the Boot, could be making a full-fledged comeback Labor Day weekend with a vote by Fort Wayne City Council Tuesday.

Once a year, up until 2017, more than 300 Fort Wayne firefighters would stand at street intersections with empty firefighter boots and have drivers put their monetary donations in the boots. The money went to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The City of Fort Wayne administration restricted the campaign because they felt it was unsafe for the firefighters to be in the streets. They said they could only collect in parking lots.

City Councilman Russ Jehl along with the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters proposed a bill that would allow city employees to solicit on public right-of-ways.

Jehl said the campaign used to raise over $100,000 a year, but total donations received dripped down to $40,000 in 2018 after it was restricted to parking lots.

Tuesday night, City Council voted to pass the ordinance 6-2.

Fire Chief Eric Lahey still has the right to stop his firefighters from collecting money off the streets while on the clock. He said he will not allow it them to do so while working, but they can collect during their free time.

Union president Jeremy Bush accepts this but hopes they can change Lahey’s mind about street collections. He’s pleased they can do so in their own time though.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We think it provides us more opportunity to where we can work something out with the administration and boost our efforts from last year.”

Lahey is proposing alternatives to reach the campaigns former $100,000 plus achievements, such as collecting donations over multiple days in the year instead of just one.

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