FLINT TWP. — Supporters of the Old Newsboys annual Newspaper Sale on December 11 are asked to look for them this year on the side of the road.
They will be set up in private parking lots marked with large signs and arrows to direct motorists, said Chris Hamilton, executive director.
For the first time in its 91-year history, Old Newsboys volunteers will not be allowed to stand in the streets in Flint Township due to a new Traffic Safety Ordinance that passed in January and went into effect March 1.
Hamilton, who also lives in the township, served on a specially appointed committee organized last year to address a growing problem with panhandlers. That resulted in the controversial Traffic Safety Ordinance which narrowly passed in a 4-3 vote by the township board because it was unclear how the ordinance would impact charities such as the Old Newsboys.
The ordinance regulates interference with motor vehicles on public streets by prohibiting money or any other object to be passed, without authorization, from or into a motor vehicle operating on a public street, except for emergency services and repairs.
It was not clear if authorization for street soliciting would come from the township board or the Genesee County Road Commission. Hamilton got the bad news officially Tuesday in a meeting with the township police chief and attorney.
“I told them it was a very sad occasion that nobody ran with the fact that it (the ordinance) allows for permission to be out there,” said Hamilton. “Nobody wanted to give permission for us to be out there.”
The Old Newsboys annual newspaper street sale, held annually on the second Friday in December, dates back to 1924. The tradition will continue in neighboring cities and townships in Genesee County.
Hamilton said he is disheartened and demoralized by the situation in Flint Township.
“They were hellbent on getting this ordinance passed just to get rid of the panhandlers on the street and really did not give any consideration to the non-profits that help out their constituents in Flint Township,” Hamilton said.
He said no effort was put into making the ordinance work for nonprofits.
“It wouldn’t have taken much effort to draw up some sort of permitting process,’’ he said. For example the township could have charged a one-day fee which panhandlers likely can’t afford, he said.
Flint Township officials did not respond to a request for comment. But the show must go on. Old Newsboys’ plan this year is to set up in parking lots with large signs to let people know it is for the Old Newsboys newspaper sale. The black and white signs will have large red arrows telling drivers where to pull in to make a donation.
They will be set up in at least ten locations that will be publicized soon. Two places to look for them will be in the parking lot of Fox 103.9 on Miller Road and in the parking lot at Patsy Lou dealership on Linden and Corunna Roads, Hamilton said. “I don’t anticipate any problems,’’ he said. “It is not going to be very convenient for us to raise funds that way.”
The paper sale accounts for half of Old Newsboys’ entire budget, he said, estimating that about a tenth of those proceeds have been collected in Flint Township.
Old Newsboys is best known for its Christmas Program, providing gifts for low-income children, but it also operates a Warm Hearts Healthy Starts coat and shoe program for needy children and a Emergency Box Program to assist families with necessities after a catastrophic loss such as a fire or flood. Old Newsboys provided Christmas gifts to 6,630 children in 2014 and has set a goal this year to help 7,000 children. So far, just over 3,600 children have been served this Christmas, bringing Old Newsboys total to more than 800,000 served by the end of the year, Hamilton said.
Information about how to sign up for the programs can be found on the organization’s web site at www.onbflint.org/ Donations can also be made on the web site. Old Newsboys is located at 6255 Taylor Drive, off Hill Road in Mundy Township