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Need for Fireworks Sale Proceeds Debated

October 16, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

A debate over whether Culver City community organizations need the proceeds from the sale of fireworks to survive has sprung up around Proposition K, the Nov. 4 ballot initiative to continue sales.

Members of veterans and other nonprofit groups that share proceeds from fireworks sales are divided over how elimination of the sales would affect their activities.

Leaders of two veterans groups said their organizations would be virtually unable to finance any of their programs, including activities for disabled veterans, sports teams and high school scholarships. Many of their members are World War II veterans in their 60s or 70s who would other forms of fund raising difficult, veterans officials said.

But the heads of two nonprofit groups that sold fireworks this year said they would not be adversely affected if voters banned the sales.

"We'd just find something else to raise the money," said Donald Coleman, treasurer of Boy Scout Troop 113, which received $3,300 in fireworks profits this year, more than a third of the troop's annual budget. Coleman said the troop's major source of funds is an annual spaghetti dinner that brings in $4,000 to $5,000 through door-to-door ticket sales.

'We'll Make It'

"We'll have a meeting when (the election) is over and see what we come up with. . . . We'll make it go. We always have," Coleman said.

Art Brice, president of the Culver / Palms Y's Men's Club, a YMCA service club, said his group would survive because it makes most of its money from Christmas tree sales, which bring in about $13,000 a year.

"It's nice to have (fireworks revenue) because it gives us money to do other things," said Brice, whose club received nearly $3,800 from fireworks this year. "But it's not something that we count on for money. If we don't have it, that's OK, too."

Each year, Culver City assigns 10 nonprofit organizations, chosen by lottery, to run 10 fireworks stands within the city limits. The groups share about $50,000 in profits from the June 29-July 4 sales.

The organizations, however, do not man the stands or have any direct role in the sales. That is taken care of by a fireworks distributor, the Anaheim-based Red Devil Fireworks Co. Red Devil pays city fees, handles the labor and supplies, counts the money and reports the proceeds to the city. Veterans and other groups have been satisfied with the arrangement because it offers them a source of funds for which they contribute no manpower or investment of their own.

Although the fireworks issue in Culver City has centered mainly on whether state-approved "safe and sane" fireworks pose a safety or fire hazard, members of the city's veterans groups say that banning sales would force them to reduce donations and activities that benefit the community. This year, eight veterans groups shared $42,000 in fireworks proceeds.

"It will completely affect our contributions to the city," said Harold Macbeth, spokesman for the Culver City Veterans Coordinating Council, made up of 10 veterans groups. "There's no other way we can raise it. Not those kinds of funds."

The council sponsors a computer instruction program at the American Legion Post 46 for veterans, Macbeth said. It makes annual contributions to Girl and Boy Scout troops and to youth soccer and baseball leagues. And it pays for Christmas parties and monthly bingo games for disabled veterans at the Veterans Hospital in West Los Angeles.

Macbeth said other fund-raising activities yield low revenues or have been taken over by other groups. The veterans considered selling Christmas trees but decided they did not want to compete with the Y's Men's Club, he said.

The best source of income other than fireworks would be bingo, he said, but that would tie up 15 to 20 members of the organization each week and would cost $5,000 to $10,000 a year. "It would take a long time to make that up," he said.

Harold Sikoff, head of the Disabled American Veterans 123, said veterans may have to go back to selling forget-me-nots on Memorial Day or setting up collection pots at shopping centers during the Christmas season to raise funds if fireworks are banned.

That, along with about $1,000 in membership dues, would allow them to survive, but would force them to cut back most of their activities. The local organization uses fireworks money to buy bingo prizes for disabled veterans and offer $500 scholarships to students at Farragut High School. This year it bought a mini-computer for its regional office and an electronic bingo board for the VA hospital.

"The trouble is, years back we were much younger. We could get the permits from City Hall, go to the grocery store with the canisters (collection pots) and count the money at the end of the drive," he said. "I'll be 71 in two months. The World War II veterans are averaging 65 years old. It's hard for them to do it like the Boy Scouts or the Girls Scouts who sell cookies door-to-door."

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