Panhandling Ordinance Shuts Down Fredericksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad Fundraiser

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    The members of a volunteer rescue squad are trying to figure out their next step after a weekend fundraiser was shut down, apparently because it was against the law. (Published Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011)

    A volunteer rescue squad needs money for equipment and supplies for its ambulance after a weekend fundraiser was shut down.

    Members of the Fredericksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad set up its fundraising signs and collection nets at a half dozen storefronts as part of its annual drive with a goal of $20,000 over the weekend. Before noon Saturday, police went to the squad’s headquarters and informed them they were breaking a city ordinance prohibiting panhandling and dangerous solicitation.

    After calling off the collections, they learned they could have continued if they stayed away from the street.

    Fredericksburg’s original solicitation ordinance passed in 2005 carved out an exception for the rescue squad, but the city attorney later determined they had to apply the rule to everyone and in 2008 it was tightened.

    The rescue squad made just $3,000 on the first day of fundraising. Volunteers hope to meet with city officials this week to find out how to stage another fundraiser that won't violate the solicitation ordinance.

    Fredericksburg police have charged 31 people with panhandling violations this year.