By Indri Schaelicke | United States
71 Republic’s Indri Schaelicke had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Brent DeRidder, the founder of the Liberty Coalition for Disaster Relief. He discussed the organization, its accomplishments, and how the people can help it meet its goals.
Schaelicke: What is the Liberty Coalition for Disaster Relief? What is your mission?
DeRidder: LCDR is a disaster relief organization. We were formed during the landing of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and endeavor to fill the gaps that government relief leaves. Our goal is to provide emergency aid during disasters and relief after. We work with other relief organizations, private individuals, and community groups to fill specific needs.
Schaelicke: What made you want to start this organization? Was there a specific event where you realized this was your calling, or did it just seem like a natural next step for you to take?
DeRidder: When my daughter, Emily, heard about the storm hitting Texas, she walked into my bedroom and demanded, sternly, that we take immediate action. She clearly pointed to the principles I hold dear and told me to “Do what you’re always telling everyone to do.” I picked up my keyboard and we got to work. Within minutes liberty advocates from across the country were joining our ‘team’ and soon we were crossing political lines.
Almost immediately liberty advocates were volunteering both physically and virtually. We lucked out and had a great administrative team that we still work with today. It wasn’t long before we had volunteers driving in with their own vehicles, towing their own boats, and loaded down with rescue and relief supplies. Within days we had entire communities making huge donations. We had volunteers going into places other organizations wouldn’t. This isn’t my calling. The movement is my calling. This is something the movement has called me to do.
Schaelicke: What does running the LCDR entail?
DeRidder: Working as a team! Nobody really ‘runs’ LCDR. We’re a network of volunteers. We’ve got a board and team coordinators, but none of us are in charge. As far as running a specific relief effort, it’s mostly facilitation. We figure out the need, come up with a plan of action, and organize volunteers. There’s a lot of organizing phonebanks to solicit supplies, finding volunteers a place to sleep, and coordinating with other relief groups.
Schaelicke: How do you receive funding for this massive operation?
DeRidder: People want to help. We’re working on our tax status and eventually, we’ll work year-round to raise funds and grow our network. We did raise a fair amount of funds during Harvey but, right now, we depend on the grassroots efforts of volunteers. We’re mostly facilitators. People want to do good. Sure, some people just want to donate money and that’s fantastic. We’ll be ready for that as soon as possible. Without money, though, we’ve still had great success and the future is bright.
Schaelicke: Do you have a memorable experience or favorite story from your relief efforts?
DeRidder: Absolutely. During the Harvey effort, Zach Garretson put together a team of volunteers. He coordinated supply donations and drops. The guy was a superhero. He loaded down his truck and made his first drops outside Houston, but heard Beaumont was impossible to get to and needed help. Zach risked his life making it through the flood zone to help get people what they needed. He’s a good friend of mine and was one of the first people to jump on board as boots on the ground. I’m a little biased, but that’s my favorite story so far.
Schaelicke: What lessons have you learned from your involvement in this organization?
DeRidder: LCDR has taught me that people really do want to help each other. We argue about politics, economics, philosophy, religion, and the order of operations for pouring a bowl of cereal, but when things are looking dark, we take joy in shedding light. We’re willing, even happy, to work together. It gives me hope for the future and it makes me want to do more.
Schaelicke: What is your biggest challenge right now?
DeRidder: Right now our biggest challenge is getting the word out. When people know there’s still a need, they volunteer and donate. Unfortunately, Florence hasn’t been given the attention that was needed from the mainstream media and it’s not a presidential election year so… Right now our biggest challenge is getting the word out that the Carolinas aren’t okay. There was a massive amount of flooding. It was more than I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived here my whole life. When we were driving home from through the mountains, we were seeing mud on trees several feet high form all the flooding. Major roads and highways are washed out. They’re just gone. Bridges are gone. Communities are wiped out. There’s a housing crisis because so many people have been displaced. They’ve lost everything. The water took it all.
Schaelicke: What is the LCDR’s biggest accomplishment so far?
DeRidder: The Coalition’s been able to create a network of volunteers from so many different walks of life. We have people from all sorts of belief systems and political leanings. Coordinating the efforts of such a diverse network of people isn’t always easy to do. For us, though, it’s been worth the effort. People who otherwise have a tendency to butt heads have learned to unify and work together on a common goal.
Schaelicke: What donations are you most in need of?
DeRidder: Right now, we need non-perishable food, water, medical supplies, baby items, hygiene items, pet supplies, cleaning supplies, bug spray, and volunteers. We usually fill up pretty quick on clothes.
Schaelicke: If someone would like to help in the relief efforts, how can they get involved?
DeRidder: We’re always looking for extra boots on the ground, but even if you can’t get here in person, there are tons of ways to volunteer. You can coordinate a local supply drive and get with a trucking company or truck rental company to help get it here. Lots of businesses are willing to help if you just ask. We also need phonebank volunteers. Our phonebank volunteers work between local organizations and individuals doing supply drives and trucking companies and our supplies chains to facilitate supply drops. We have areas with good shipping connections. We just need folks to call businesses and organizations in those areas to have supplies collected and donated.
Schaelicke: Is there anything you would like to share with the readers that you have not already?
DeRidder: There’s always something you can do. It may be small. It can seem insignificant but, as a disaster victim myself, I can tell you it means the world. You making a quick phone call today very likely means a family won’t be hungry or cold tomorrow. Don’t ‘want’ to help. Help. That way when the world asks you, as an activist, “Without government, who would?” you can answer “We will!”
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