I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Bouldin at this years Porcfest X, where we hula hooped together and I experienced her delectable homemade ice cream. Amanda is also very active in New Hampshire and started Shire Sharing, an organization that provides Thanksgiving meals for the needy through donations. She details in this interview how Bitcoin has made the process easier to provide for those who in need and how agorism is an excellent alternative to government welfare programs for helping the downtrodden.
What is Shire Sharing?
Shire Sharing is basically a bunch of libertarians (and anyone else who wants to be involved) putting their principles of voluntary charity into practice. Right now it exists as one annual project only; we provide Thanksgiving dinners to as many impoverished NH families as possible. Shire Sharing has and will continue to do other smaller projects as they present themselves: a fundraiser for the NH Food Bank that netted over $500; a fundraiser for Chris Lopez, a liberty activist, to get a new wheelchair– $500 came in in less than 24 hours; food drives for needy NH liberty families; backpacks stuffed with essential items for the Manchester homeless. Shire Sharing can be anything so long as it’s voluntary and we do it ourselves, connecting directly with those in need.
What was your motivation to start Shire Sharing?
In 2011, my father passed away suddenly from an aggressive cancer. He had been doing a similar project every year for Thanksgiving called the Basket Brigade for at least 10 years in Dallas, Texas, where I’m originally from. After he died, which was in April of that year, when Thanksgiving was rolling around I realized his tradition might die with him. I thought I would like to honor him by doing the same thing in New Hampshire. I actually wasn’t sure if it would succeed– I was nervous and unsure of the outcome. I was stunned when over $1,000 poured in and we fed about 50 families the first year. My dad did one basket his first year. In its first year, we were calling SS the Basket Brigade but Ian Freeman, perhaps jokingly, said that the name was too militant. In 2012, Jason Talley came up with the name Shire Sharing and we ran with it. It was originally meant to be a one-time Basket Brigade to honor my dad, but it’s become so much more.
How many people are working on this project with you?
I don’t really have an answer. We get donations from everywhere all over the country. The majority of support comes from local liberty activists. When it comes to Thanksgiving, it’s a huge project that requires hours and hours of work; last year about 50 volunteers showed up to help get the Thanksgiving deliveries ready. I had about 15 people out making deliveries in their cars, and probably 30 people doing the “bulk” deliveries. To clarify, when we make deliveries for Thanksgiving the system breaks down to two methods: for the addresses that fall in the same apartment complexes, we load a U-Haul full of food and a bus full of activists. We drive this caravan to each complex, disperse, and make lots of deliveries really quickly. However there are addresses that are more spread apart, and for those I build routes that activists drive in their own cars.
Have traditional organizations known for private charity reached out? What about food manufacturers?
The local Market Basket grocery store has been super supportive. They gave us a great price on turkeys last year and they’ll be doing the same this year. They also store all the perishables for us (I don’t have space for, for example, hundreds of boxes of eggs) so that we can just swing by with the U-Haul on the day of delivery and load up. I find the families through Lutheran Social Services and Friends of Forgotten Children. We have the support of groups like FoodNotBombs, BitcoinNotBombs, AntiWar.com, CopBlock, Peaceful Streets Project, and the NH Liberty Alliance.
What has been the reception by the community in NH outside the Free State Project?
There’s a local radio show called Girard at Large, conservative in nature and run on a Christian station, which often invites me for interviews about SS. Here and there, locals hear from liberty folks and get involved one way or another. Other than that, no one really notices; it spreads through word of mouth. There are a few grumpy liberal types that believe that Shire Sharing aims to eliminate the welfare system and is offering only one Thanksgiving meal per year as a replacement. They’re known to say, “What do you do for people the other 364 days a year?” The haters are definitely out-numbered by supporters.
I think humor has a place in and is even necessary to activism (especially to moderate stress levels). I read you recently held a comedy show to raise funds, how did that go?
It went swimmingly! The event raised $845 toward the project, and because the venue was free and the comedians worked for free, every cent goes into the project! It was a really fun evening and the performers were top-notch. I suppose this is an example of another local group that supports SS– Laugh Free or Die is the organization that set this up at the suggestion of a local comedian.
Hurdles? Everything is a hurdle except for fundraising and finding volunteers. That’s the easiest part! The hurdles have been Excel, Google Docs, maps in general… basically anything that requires my brain. [laughter]
What is the most difficult part about Shire Sharing?
Hmm. That’s hard to say. It’s too rewarding to really be a hassle of any sort. People have a natural, ingrained desire to be productive; my job is a total bore, and for a few months a year this is my outlet. If anything, the hardest thing is to decide what side-projects are worthwhile. People come to me with ideas and I don’t want to be in the position of saying no when I should have said yes; similarly, I don’t want to say yes when I maybe should have said no. Mistakes are made, but one thing I realize is that the biggest model we have for charity work is completely flawed –the government welfare system. I’m still searching for the best way. Think outside the box!
Bitcoin has been used to fund many other charity causes, has accepting Bitcoin for Shire Sharing significantly affected the amount of donations you’ve received?
Absolutely. Since the price of Bitcoin is destined to go up over time, it’s an easy way for me to hold donations long-term without much of a security risk while somewhat side-stepping that whole “inflation” thing. Furthermore, I believe people who’ve been holding onto BTC for a while are apt to donate more in BTC than they would in FRNs because they bought them for far less than they’re currently worth.
What do you like about accepting Bitcoin for donations as opposed to other forms?
It’s very simple for me to store. Checks and cash require a bank run, minimum. When I want to change BTC into FRNs to move the project forward, I just call a friendly local BTC enthusiast and it’s a done deal.
Is Bitcoin usage in general pretty widespread in New Hampshire as far as vendors willing to accept them?
I don’t know much about that- many, many people accept them for local agorist operations – but as far as a brick & mortar store, I only know of the Pão Cafe in Newmarket, NH.
Where can people learn more and donate?
You can view a video of Amanda from 2012’s Shire Sharing Drive here:
This is another excellent opportunity to show the world how Bitcoin and the crypto-currency community are solving real problems that government simply can’t. I wish Amanda the best on this years Thanksgiving drive and hope to see the even more growth next year.
Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome