BY EMMA TAYLOR
Lorenzo Liberti has just graduated high school, but his story is unique from those of most recent graduates. Not only is Liberti moving forward into adulthood with a diploma, but he has also established a successful non-profit organization, given away tens of thousands of dollars to combat veteran homelessness and other social crises, and graced several local, and one national, news programs to share his mission and seek support for his efforts.
Liberti grew up in a family that prioritized helping those in need. “My mother was homeless when she was growing up, so we always made it a mission to help the less fortunate,” he said of his upbringing. On one such occasion, Liberti met a homeless Vietnam War veteran, and the experience changed his life. His eyes were opened to an ongoing issue for many who have served our country, and it sparked a desire in him to find a way to help. Having always wanted to serve in the military himself, Liberti holds a great reverence for those who sacrifice their lives to serve our nation.
In the summer between Liberti’s eighth and ninth grade years, his father urged him to find a project — something aside from video games and pestering him in his home office. A Go Army ad appeared as Liberti was searching for father-and-son DIY projects. The ad made him begin to ruminate on the conversation he had with the homeless veteran he met 11 months prior. “My dad saw me looking at it and said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we did something to honor him?’,” he said. The Liberti’s had some spare wood lying around, and Lorenzo began to tinker. He began cutting, carving, torching, and staining, and two days later he had created the first, of what would become many, Heroic Flags.
Liberti’s brother loved his creation and requested one of his own. Neighbors became curious about the activity in the garage-turned-workshop and wanted one. “That’s when it clicked that I could make something bigger out of this. And more importantly, I can help this homeless veteran,” Liberti said of his early vision.
After about a month of flag-making and his first sale, Liberti reached out to the local nonprofit, Turning Points of Bradenton. Turning Points helps the homeless and has a yellow ribbon program for veterans in need. Liberti met a veteran named Edwin Robinson through Turning Points who invited him to a gala to play the National Anthem on his violin and auction off two of his flags. “I’m a kid. I didn’t know what to expect. He (Robinson) was walking by and saw the flag — one of the first ones I’d made — and he saw something in it, something in me, I guess,” Liberti said of the seminal meeting. The two flags that Liberti auctioned at the gala raised $1,300 each and filled his teenage heart with joy and possibility.
Liberti found himself with abundant idle time again at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. And again, his father encouraged him not to waste his time watching TV and lazing away like many of his youthful counterparts. Seeing the potential in what Liberti was doing, his father told him, “Hey! Now more than ever, you need to get ahead of everyone else. You should really strive to do something to change the world.”
With his mission set, Liberti found a new inspiration through his mother, a medical assistant at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Liberti realized something as he watched her motivate in the early mornings and come home in exhaustion late into the evening. “I noticed it’s not just my mother. There are a lot of people out there who are sacrificing their lives, really — especially in the beginning of the pandemic — for us. These new heroes, they didn’t wear camouflage, or carry guns, or go to foreign lands. These new heroes, like my mother, wore scrubs and face masks, and moved people from room to room trying to help them,” he said with great respect. In honor of his mother and those like her, Liberti made his biggest flag yet at seven feet and gifted it to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where it now stands proudly in the cafeteria.
The growing traction of his work led Liberti’s father to suggest that they reach out to some local news channels. Liberti had a full inbox in less than 24 hours from local stations expressing interest and an invite to be a guest on Fox and Friends. Liberti used his spot on national news to share his mission and announce his intention to create 50 three-foot flags, one to go in a hospital in every U.S. State, to thank and honor frontline healthcare workers. The GoFundMe that he shared to raise funds for the creation of the 50 flags ended up far surpassing his goal and allowed him to donate $30,000 of his surplus funds to Turning Points of Bradenton. In addition to more money than he’d asked for, Liberti also found himself with more orders for Heroic Flags than he could wrap his head around with less than 50 created at that point.
The momentum was undeniable, but amid all the good he was doing, Liberti found himself at a disheartening crossroads. Regarding his generous gift to Turning Points, Liberti said, “I realized that however amazing and proud I was to be able to do that, that $30,000 didn’t end veteran homelessness. It put a band-aid on a really big bullet hole, and I felt a little crushed.”
Faced with the difficult realities of inciting large-scale social and economic change, Liberti set up a nonprofit of his own called Give-a-Buck. Give-a-Buck is devoted to its mission of not just alleviating but ending veteran homelessness. One measure they’re currently taking is to go around to schools and educate students on the problem of veteran homelessness.
Liberti has already exceeded many of his seemingly unattainable goals. With over $50,000 raised for homeless veterans, kids with special needs, foster children, and several other causes and thousands of flags created, sold, and donated, it seems that the sky is the limit for this young man and his altruistic mission. A message that Liberti has found helpful and hopes to share is that “If you aim low and hit, it’s much worse than to aim high and miss.”
All profits from Heroic Flags go to Give-a-Buck, which allows Liberti to work one-on-one with homeless veterans. He usually meets them through other nonprofits such as Turning Points. By working on a case-by-case basis, veterans who are close to having their needs met can receive the assistance they require, making support more impactful to each individual than a blanket gift might be capable of.
Visit heroicflags.com and give-a-buck.org if you’re interested in supporting Lorenzo Liberti’s mission to combat, and hopefully end, veteran homelessness. All private donations to Give-a-Buck go to supporting its mission.