I met Derel Stroud when he was the South Jersey volunteer coordinator for Barbara Buono’s gubernatorial campaign in 2013. We’d meet at the ersatz South Jersey headquarters (i.e. Ann Palmer’s dining room table in Willingboro) to make phone calls. Derel struck me as a tireless worker who would never hesitate to go the extra mile to help others.
After Hurricane Harvey, he decided to go 1600 extra miles – driving with his cousin to Texas to help out the victims.
The response to this devastating hurricane has been overwhelming, with people from all over the country flocking to the Lone Star State to offer assistance. After contacting police and fire authorities there, Derel learned that there was a waiting list for volunteers, and so with the help of a friend, Michigan lawmaker Jewell Jones, he partnered with Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont. After his 23½ hour trip with a car full of supplies donated by his New Jersey contacts, Derel told me of the impact he saw. He reported that as soon as he crossed over the Louisiana/Texas state line, the damage was everywhere. One highway was wiped out, and he and his cousin had to proceed along the side of the road. He saw belongings strewn around, deserted vehicles, and blown out windows.
In Beaumont, Derel assisted with unloading materials, sorting things like diapers, and preparing packages for distribution to affected Texans. One attempt to go into Houston had to be aborted because of a curfew, but he and his cousin plan to offer their assistance in the heavily affected western part of the city before leaving for New Jersey this Friday.
Meanwhile, this young political operative continues to work his day job by phone, running campaigns for two Plainfield school board candidates and one City Council candidate in Newark.
With Hurricane Irma usurping the headlines in Florida, the Houston area should not be forgotten, and when asked about what is needed, Derel told me “anything and everything,” but he emphasized cleaning supplies, underwear, and school supplies were the greatest need.
There’s a lot of talk these days about “American Exceptionalism” –what distinguishes us among the family of nations. Even before the events of the past couple of weeks, I knew Derel was the epitome of that concept. Thank you, Derel, not just for the work you’re doing for the hurricane victims, but also for setting a prime example for all Americans, young and old.
photos from Derel Stroud’s Facebook page – used with permission.