At this point, most locals will immediately recognize Curtis Reliford’s white-and-red truck with a trailer in tow. Hand-painted signs along the sides, it can often be found blaring songs like “Love Train” and “A Change is Gonna Come” all through town, with Reliford wearing his trademark red shirt, overalls and a straw hat pretty much wherever he goes.
Since 2005, the Santa Cruz transplant has been trekking across the country for his Follow Your Heart Action Network, delivering food, clothing and anything else he can load into his trailer. In the past 12 years, Reliford’s been on a constant road trip—a “journey of kindness,” as he calls it—visiting the Hopi Indian Reservation, victims of post-hurricane flooding in his native Louisiana and, most recently, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota.
Reliford will host a two-hour discussion on Sunday, March 5 at the Peace United Church with Spotted Elk, who joined Reliford on his last trip to Standing Rock, a journey that took four days of driving across seven states.
Armed with warm clothes, the two men brought supplies to help the “water protectors” camped out on the front lines to try to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
His “missions of love” first began shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and left Reliford feeling compelled to help his brothers and sisters stuck in flooded communities with no food, water or power. During that time, he made 13 trips, delivering 8 tons of donations.
“I didn’t like the way the government was treating [New Orleans’ citizens],” he remembers. “So it was a heart-driven, adrenaline rush and wake-up call for me.”
Since then, he has delivered truckloads more of food, clothes, toys, bikes and home goods. Reliford will pick a destination and gather as much as he can through donations to Follow Your Heart Action, his 501c3. Reliford also brings whatever extra food, clothing and children’s toys he has to migrant workers in Watsonville and Monterey counties. In the past three months, he’s been a mainstay at local protests—his big truck appearing at both the November marches against President Donald Trump and the local Women’s March on Washington.
But he says politics has nothing to do with what he’s trying to do.
“I don’t want to get into politics,” he says. “It’s about a journey of kindness, a message of love and peace, and an empathy for all people. We’re here on this Earth to share, to promote joy and random acts of kindness.”
Curtis Reliford and Spotted Elk’s free discussion is at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 5 at Peace United Church. For more information about the event or how to support Reliford, visit followyourheartactionnetwork.com.