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 30thth. The 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