Since joining CAMP Rehoboth in July, one of the first questions I ask when I meet someone new is: tell me how you first connected with CAMP Rehoboth? It is a great ice breaker and people are always willing to share their CAMP Rehoboth stories with me. It helps me to connect with them and also to learn more about CAMP Rehoboth’s history.
People share a variety of answers with me but one theme that continues to surface is that CAMP Rehoboth was a resource for them when they were newcomers to Rehoboth Beach. This point was reiterated recently when I participated in a focus group as part of CAMP Rehoboth’s strategic plan development. Our group was asked to share what we thought were CAMP Rehoboth’s strengths and Derrick Johnson, a fellow staff member, shared that CAMP Rehoboth serves as a great resource for LGBTQ+ people who are new to the Rehoboth Beach area.
Derrick shared his own experience, when he decided to permanently move from New York to Rehoboth Beach. He found CAMP’s monthly magazine, Letters, was an invaluable resource for him as it offered informative articles and included the CAMP Rehoboth Beach Guide that listed LGBTQ+ friendly businesses.
Just the other day, I was covering the CAMPcierge desk in the lobby when Susan Taylor walked in the door with an armload of coats to donate to CAMP Rehoboth’s Annual Toy, Hat, Gloves, and Coat drive. We got to talking and I learned that she recently moved from the west coast with her wife and thought that volunteering at CAMP Rehoboth would be a great way for her to meet new people.
I shared that we have an excellent volunteer program that includes a weekly newsletter with volunteer opportunities where you could pick and choose where/when you want to volunteer your time. CAMP Rehoboth’s volunteer program helps connect members of our own LGBTQ+ community, even as they offer up their talents and time in service to our larger community.
I recently had dinner with two wonderful CAMP Rehoboth volunteers, James Buswold and Tony Incalcatera, who moved to the area just days before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked about how prior to their move, they had researched LGBTQ+ friendly towns and found that Rehoboth Beach was one of the top 10 places for gays and lesbians to retire.
They chose to explore here first and fell in love with Rehoboth Beach—and never felt the need to search other places. They were thrilled to discover that the CAMP Rehoboth community center existed in such a small town, especially because they moved here from Austin, Texas, which did not have an LGBTQ+ community center.
They credit CAMP Rehoboth with making them feel welcomed by their new community. James even volunteered to drive the float (with Tony in the passenger seat) in the Sea Witch Festival® parade. That was significant for two reasons: one, he had never driven a vehicle in a parade; and two, it was their first time ever attending the Sea Witch Festival® parade.
Many of you know that CAMP Rehoboth is a full-service community center that promotes health and wellness, advocacy, and education, as well as offering vibrant arts and cultural programs. But I think for many people their first connection to CAMP Rehoboth is utilizing the valuable resources we have to offer them—whether it is stopping by in person, or reading Letters, or volunteering as a way to connect and meet LGBTQ+ people in the community.
So, I ask you the question: what first connected you to CAMP Rehoboth? As you ponder your answer, think about if your first connection is—like Derrick’s—using Letters as a resource? Or did you just pop into CAMP Rehoboth and introduce yourself, like Susan? Or did you sign up to volunteer at an event like Tony and James? Or maybe you connected in a completely different way? However you first discovered CAMP Rehoboth, we are so glad that you are part of the CAMP Rehoboth community!
In this season of giving, please ask yourself how valuable CAMP Rehoboth is to you, and how you can best support the important work CAMP does. Will you consider making a Year-End Gift that supports what you value most about CAMP Rehoboth? Your gift enables CAMP Rehoboth to continue to serve as an ongoing resource for many, as well as a welcoming place for those who are new to Rehoboth Beach and its surrounding communities.
Best wishes for a peaceful and joyous holiday season. ▼
Laurie Thompson is CAMP Rehoboth’s Development Manager, overseeing all development, fundraising, and donor relations. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-227-5620.