Archive for Live Free News

A Letter To Members from the President of Live Free USA

From the President of Live Free USA

I have been the president of this organization for about 45 of its 51 years of existence. In the early years we didn’t have a set of bylaws or any official titles for officers. Although we are having our “51st Annual Meeting” this March there were many years when there were so few of us that we had no official Annual Meeting at all.  Membership has ranged from as few as 12 to over 800 in the Cold War 1980's. At one point we had chapters from coast-to-coast and members in England, Australia, Canada and a few other countries. Our lowest point was in the early 1990’s when there was little public interest in emergency preparedness.  After the events of 9/11 we found ourselves playing catch up in the growing number of survival/preparedness organizations.  We had only a few of our hard-core members and practically no funds while for profit and well-sponsored groups outpaced our programs.  We couldn’t get anyone to do a website until 2006!  As a result, the organization that invented and defined true survivalism in the 1960’s is not as well known or appreciated today as it should be.

Not having sponsors, funds or professional support has resulted in many missed opportunities. Throughout most of my tenure I have had a full-time job, family obligations and many personal challenges.  Being that I was doing most of the clerical work, Live Free’s growth depended on my available time. For example: in the early 1980’s Live Free was featured on television, radio and press coast-to-coast, resulting in hundreds of opportunities and letters coming in each month.  In those years my wife and I were coping with a family member with cancer and another with dementia while we both worked full-time jobs and maintained a historic landmark building.  There was no way to keep up and I eventually had to throw out boxes of unopened latter’s that had sat for years.  That cycle has often been a problem:  we get some publicity and do some events and membership shoots up, but then I get overloaded and can’t do membership support publications, and events and membership goes back down.  In the last few years we have had a bit more help, but the problem is not completely resolved.

I am often asked why we named the organization “Live Free” and not something with “preparedness” or “survival” in the name.  The answer is that “survivalism”, “survivalist”, and “prepper” were not even in the dictionary when we started doing survival and preparedness stuff.  The precursor to Live Free was The Ticonderoga Gun Club that morphed into an outdoor sports group that evolved into outdoor survival and then general survival as Live Free USA*.  Our newsletter started in the 1970s as “Directions” but has always been focused on survival related material.  We changed the name of our publication and website to facilitate website searches and more accurately reflect our focus activities, but we have long been incorporated as Live Free USA.  While we have adapted and modified to survive, we are the pioneer survival/preparedness organization with the longest published survival/preparedness publication in America.

So here we are in 2019. We have a solid reputation, a great history, a loyal core membership, and as much funds as we have ever had.  While I am relatively healthy I cannot do more than I am doing now and probably will be a bit less able in the years to come, so I am stepping aside at the next Annual Meeting on March 30ththThe good news is that it appears that we will have a full slate of capable and dedicated new officers taking over. This new group is a healthy mix of new younger members, experienced veteran members and long-time founding members. This strong team should be able to establish new visions, goals and programs while dividing up the tasks and responsibilities previously handled by a few or just left undone.  I intend to continue my service as a “Director” doing the newsletter and other tasks as requested by the Board of Directors. It will take some time to shift some of the critical tasks and information to the new officer and establish a less person-centered organization. Personally, my biggest hope is to leave a sustainable and effective, non-profit, national preparedness organization to support individual self-reliance and family preparedness for generations to come. I regard life and freedom as two inseparable values that are both in great jeopardy in this century and only a prepared, and self-reliant population can truly be safe and free.

It has been my honor to serve our members for these past decades. I cannot express enough gratitude to all of our founding and core group (you know who you are) members who have supported my efforts and so many ways through good-times and hard-times. I pledge my continued support and best efforts in my new role.

For life and Freedom

James C. Jones

* The words “Live and “Free” are two of the most ubiquitous and interpretable (or misinterpretable) words in the English language.  While inspiring terms as in “Live Free or Die” the name became a problem when the internet and search engines developed.  Issues not anticipated in the 1970's

Keep Live Free USA Alive

Ordinarily we would have three open offices to fill each year, but with the President’s resignation effective on January 1st 2019 and the Vice President having resigned last month we face the 2019 Annual Meeting in March with five open offices. Failure to fill these offices with active, motivated candidates will leave the organization virtually leaderless and inactive.  Members old and new need to step forward in advance and get involved.  If we go into that meeting without predetermined and pre-committed candidates there will probably be no Live Free USA by the end of that year.  You can start networking with the existing officers and we offer a 200-word space in our newsletter and website postings for potential candidates to announce their candidacy and state their qualifications, visions and goals for the organization.  The five open offices to be filled in 2019 are:

  • President: To fill the remaining term of the resigning officer from 2019 until March 2020 when an election for a full three-year term will be held *
  • Vice President: To fill the remaining two year term from 2019 until 2021
  • Membership Secretary: Term from 2019 till 2022
  • Director #1: Term from 2019 till 2022
  • Director #2: Term from 2019 till 2022

*The current President has expressed interest in becoming a Director

Fifty Years of Live Free USA

LIVE FREE USA 50TH ANNIVERSARY

Looking back and Looking Ahead, by James C. Jones, Founder and President

Most significant organizations are formally created with the involvement and support of financially stable, business and professional founders.  Live Free USA evolved from a group of poor city kids who liked to go camping.  We have established the year nineteen-sixty-eight as the formal start of Live Free USA because that’s about when we started practicing, advocating and educating for survival and self-reliance. The organization started as an NRA affiliated shooting sports club and expanded into other outdoor sports including rock climbing, caving, river rafting, primitive camping and archery. The potential for injuries and the need for first aid and safety training brought us to focus on survival related issues.  Membership was primarily limited to the South-side of Chicago in the 1960's and the draconian gun laws and vehement anti-gun sentiments (much greater than today) made operations as a “gun club’ unsustainable so we evolved into a “sports club” but continued to do shooting activities out of town. The political turbulence of the late 1960's combined with the growing threats of the Cold War drew the organization into the broader aspects of emergency preparedness and self-reliance while we continued to conduct outdoor survival training as well.  We also began to attract membership beyond the Chicago area. At this time we started publishing our survival newsletter. Originally titled “Directions” and mimeographed it became todays “American Survivor” a respected source of survival information for over 40-years.

In the late 1960's we started doing annual training programs at Tippecanoe River State Park in norther Indiana. The park offered cabins and a huge training area for a reasonable price. This event evolved it what became the annual “Camp Independence” survival education event. We first rented just one cabin, but by the late 1970's we were renting the entire, 50 building facility including dining halls, shelters, an infirmary, showers and housing for hundreds of participants. We were able to conduct combination indoor and outdoor training programs, drills and scenarios that were beyond anything being done today by any survival organization.  Camp Independence continued until 2015 when the Indiana Department of Resources elected to close the facilities. This was a major blow to our training programs, since no equivalent facilities existed.  It is sad to note that the reason for closure was primarily that very few groups used it.  The organizations that had previously held events and gatherings there have either disbanded or become less willing to cope without heat, AC and lights. To many folks Tippecanoe and Live Free were synonyms.

We really hoped to develop our own version of the facilities at Tippecanoe River State Park in the 1970's. We started selling shares of our “land fund” and doing car washes to raise money to buy some land.  Against all odds, we managed to get sufficient funds to purchase 20-acres of beautiful wooded property in Wisconsin.  We set up a camp area, rifle range, and other facilities and eventually acquired an adjoining 20- acres.  We called it “The American Survival Center” (I still have the sign), but a combination of events forced us to sell it off in the mid 80's.  One of the reasons that we do the paperwork to maintain our current not-for-profit, tax deductible status is the hope that we might receive a contribution, bequest or grant that would revive the dream of a true “American Survival Center.”  Certainly there is a greater need than ever for such a facility with so many camp facilities closing.

The 1980's brought Live Free USA into the national and even international spotlight. We noted that the media was suddenly interested in “survivalists” but had been attracted to extreme political and religious groups who may have been practicing survival skills, but were not (in our view) real survivalists.  Having been at it for two decades, we were far ahead of others in actual practices.  For several years we worked to promote the true philosophies and practices of survivalism.  Media helicopters landed at Tippecanoe and at the American Survival Center. We did dozens of interviews for radio, TV and major publications. We even talked on the BBC and Dutch TV.  I was privileged to speak at the American Society for Civil Defense on two occasions.  Through this publicity we built up a national membership and even some international members. We still had to manage with our very limited number of overworked volunteers and no significant financial support, and this severely limited our ability to build on our success or expand our programs.  The cover of the 1986 issue of American Survival Guide was dedicated to Live Free USA's years of service.  Live Free’s reputation, core group and missions were all established in the 1980's, but the preparedness movement almost collapsed in the early 1990's.

Although Live Free USA never considered nuclear war as the only or even primary survival and preparedness motivation, the public jumped to the conclusion that the fall of the Soviet Union was the beginning of the age of peace and security.  All of the survival magazines soon ceased publication and all of the other survival organizations evaporated.  Without magazines to advertise in we dwindled down to a small number of loyal national members and a hardcore group locally.  We still held Camp Independence at Tippecanoe and got out our newsletter sporadically. In short, Live Free went into a survival mode of conserving resources and maintaining our local core membership.  By the late 1990's support for preparedness and survivalist began to revive as terrorism, economic instability, natural disaster, epidemics and other obvious challenges began to be recognized by the public. Variations of survivalist such as the “prepper” movement and the “homesteading” movement began to emerge.  At the same time the internet provided a new avenue for Live Free to outreach, network, promote and organize.  The dawn of the Twenty-First Century brought with it multiple natural and man-made disasters combined with a matrix of potential survival challenges that established preparedness and survival education as a major requirement for the public.  Some new preparedness magazines were in publication, and preparedness expositions were being held throughout the country.

The early part of this century has seen Live Free reestablish itself as the leading organization for survival and preparedness.  While members can join on-line through our website at AmericanSurvivor.org, we still provide hard-copy mailings to all those who prefer that method. Our American Survivor newsletter remains the only continuously published survival publication from the 1970's and Live Free USA has been advertised in most national survival magazines in recent years.  We have several active chapters and conduct multiple training events annually.  Live Free USA and Live Free chapter groups have exhibited and presented at dozens of preparedness expositions. Unlike the 1980's when Live Free was the major focus of media attention and the public actually joined and participated in organized groups, today the internet fragments and dilutes the public’s attention on any one group and the public tends to prefer virtual rather than real involvement.  Hard-copy publications are often replaced by a video or blog.  There are literally thousands of survival websites and hundreds of survival and preparedness (for profit) suppliers and trainers.   This has made it difficult for Live Free to grow as it did in the 80's, but we are an important part of the growing movement.

This organization started with a number of handicaps that most organizations don’t have.

  • We started without any support or sponsorships at all and the members themselves could not afford much in the way of contributions until much later.
  • We had no lawyers, accountant’s businessmen, or other professionals to help us build the organization. Most groups have a lot of pro-bono help.  Most groups have members taking care of the website, tax documents and other issues, we do not.
  • We have no sponsors or significant donations and have never received any kinds of grants.
  • Telling folks that they need to prepare for some bad times is not necessarily popular. Unless there has been a recent disaster or serious scare event interest and support drops.
  • Although we are classified as a “public charity” by the IRS we don’t get any of the support that a group like the Red Cross or Boy Scouts will receive. In fact we get less than $100.00 per year in contributions even though we conduct our education programs for free.
  • Other than memberships and a few book sales we have no solid financial support system.
  • When membership increases and/or activities multiply, the same few volunteers get overloaded and we are forced to reduce operations when we should be increasing them.
  • We have no actual headquarters, office or training facility from which to efficiently expand operations and house a staff. Only a major grant or contribution will address this issue.
  • We have a lot of training equipment and supplies and there are some bequests that may come to Live Free in the years to come, but the equipment may need to be disposed of if they are not going to be used, and the organization must still exist for the bequests to be made in the future.

When I retired from my day job a few years ago I determined to give a final push to get Live Free to a point of sustainable growth and solid operation. I traveled to many preparedness expositions, wrote for many magazines and put aside some personal priorities in favor of building Live Free.  We have had some notable successes, but I am disappointed that we have not attracted more young leadership and outside financial support.  Illnesses and age among our core members has begun to seriously degrade our operations.  Developments in the next 12 to 24 months will determine the future of the organization.  Live Free USA is the only tax-deductible, not-for-profit organization in the United States (maybe the world) dedicated to healing people prepare for survival situations and become more self-reliant. Certainly, there has never been a greater need for what we do, yet our existence is in jeopardy.   

I welcome everyone's suggestions and participation as we go forward.  Please consider  attending our 50th Annual Meeting on March 24th at 1:00 PM in Cabela's Conference Center in Hammond IN.