This story was submitted as a nomination to the Reader’s Digest “Top 10 Nicest Places in America” contest: a crowd-sourced effort to uncover nooks where people are still kind and respectful in an era of cultural and political divides. If you know of a community, business, or nonprofit where kindness prevails, then be sure to submit a testimony or anecdote here before the June 5th deadline.
DeRidder has been a military town for nearly a century, as the Louisiana Maneuvers established the nearby Fort Polk military base in the 1940s. If you’ve served our nation or are related to someone who has, you understand what this means and how your community is part of your support.
The people of DeRidder are well-accustomed to welcoming new people to the town, saying goodbye — and most importantly, remaining friends. DeRidder people are known for their hospitality, patriotism, and lending a hand in times of need. Residents have sheltered people during hurricanes, helped veterans in need, and frequently pull together to help their own. DeRidder’s history reads like a guide for kindness.
Stories About DeRidder
This small town in west Louisiana has a soup kitchen, a food pantry, and a host of active service organizations, which are rarities in some parts of the country. The most recent example included the community helping a 97-year-old World War II veteran, as area veterans and their families joined forces to assist in improving his general quality of life. Here are just a few examples of kindness, both old and new:
1941: Residents helped a plane in the dark after it was thrown off course from Barksdale, a military location in Shreveport. Residents drove their cars to the unlit air field to outline the pilot’s landing range. Lt. Scott was led to the field by a DeRidder firetruck pointing it’s spotlight to the skyline as a beacon for him to follow.
1941: Residents united to help staff the town’s United Service Organization, which provides respite for servicemen.
2004: A USMC veteran lived in a public park for three months, and the community pulled together to find him shelter and support after media coverage.
2005: After Hurricane Katrina, many local churches and organizations helped to shelter evacuees and collected funds to assist them after their displacement. The American Legion Post 27 even helped coordinate a wedding for two evacuees. Of the wedding party, groom Warren Noel told The American Press, “I wouldn’t say they are just friends, but family. I love them. If I had a car, I wouldn’t leave. I love it here.”
2017: Over 20 soldiers from Fort Polk worked at the Soul Soup community soup kitchen in December 2017. Also in The American Press, Sgt. Michael McGonigal said, “One thing I have been taught, and that I strongly believe in, is that a unit is only as strong as the community that supports it.”
2018: Redeemer Lutheran Church started a community garden to supply the local food pantry with fresh produce to give to those in need. Church member Elizabeth Smith told KPLC, “I was thinking how nice it would be instead of mowing grass, we had something there producing and I thought about a garden, and we already give to God’s food box…so I was thinking we could give them fresh fruits and vegetables with what we grow.”
Share The Inspiring Story Of Community With Your Friends – Feature Photo by City of DeRidder Facebook / Newspaper photo by Elona Weston