A Huge CROP of Worthy Projects
“See those people in the green tee-shirts? They’re here to help.”
And with that introduction, a brigade of CAMP Rehoboth volunteers descended on the shelter building, buckets of paint and brushes in hand to refresh and rehab a safe place for homeless girls.
The job site could just as likely have been a Habitat for Humanity drywall installation, a transfer of collected non-perishable items to a food bank or, as recently happened at a church, ushering at the memorial service for a notable community member.
The group is the CAMP Rehoboth Community Outreach Program (CROP). And on the day of the memorial service the volunteers exchanged their green tee-shirts for dressier black and white apparel and provided some comforting outreach.
CROP has been lending a helping hand to local non-profits, charities, and worthy projects and adventures since 2009.
Originally invented as a CAMP Rehoboth crew of enthusiastic unpaid workers calling themselves the Volunteers on Vacation (VOV), the crew was led by founder Claire Ippoliti. One of their first projects was responding to a community need by painting the West Rehoboth Community Center.
“I had seen what volunteers had done in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and thought about giving back here,” Claire says. ”And I knew it would be good for people to get to know individuals in the LGBTQ community.”
According to Claire, while it was the original vision to have people vacationing in Rehoboth volunteer with CAMP Rehoboth, it really turned out to be a group of locals volunteering. Those early volunteers included Glen Pruitt, Sue Goudy, Dan Melesurgo, Kathy Wiz, Gregg Glaviano, Muriel Hogan, Leslie Sinclair, and Debbie Woods.
Some of the first projects saw a Career Day in West Rehoboth, digging a vegetable garden and hosting a holiday party in the community of Burton Village, and more. “It was really about getting to know each other and making friends,” Claire says. “And it turned out we had a rewarding impact.”
VOV found itself providing enriching activities for underserved children and supplying services for senior citizens, the homeless, and more. Claire led the group for five years before changing jobs and having to step back from the leadership role. Leslie Sinclair and Debbie Woods took the helm, although “It was more of a leadership team,” says Leslie.
By 2015, VOV became CAMP Rehoboth Outreach Program or “CROP,” a new name that better communicates what the program is all about.
As the program grew, some of the organizations CROP partnered with included Delaware Food Bank, Immanuel Homeless Shelter, Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park, Burton Village 4H Afterschool Program, Delaware Botanic Gardens, and the Center for the Inland Bays. Projects took place not only in Rehoboth, but in Lewes and all over Sussex County.
In an average year, CROP, representing CAMP Rehoboth, will have over 100 volunteers and provide hundreds of hours of service to the community. That’s a lot of food delivery, clearing of park paths, ushering at CAMP concerts, and working with other non-profits.
“One of our major concerns these days is food insecurity,” Leslie says, and Debbie recalls delivering food for the homeless at the Red Mill Inn— “during a blizzard!” The group has been known for amassing mountains of non-perishable food and a caravan of SUVs delivering it to food pantries. CROP continues to fight hunger in the area by sorting donated food at the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford, packing items into boxes for distribution to other charitable organizations and ultimately for delivery to the hungry.
One of CROP’s most fun projects takes place each spring during the CAMP Rehoboth Women’s FEST. Volunteers from CROP go to the Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding site in Milton to help by power washing facilities, and even “pasture picking” says Debbie with a smile. And as there are many volunteer visitors from out of town at FEST, this project harkens back to the original volunteers-on-vacation idea.
On the horizon for CROP are continued projects for the Brandywine SPCA and a collaboration with the Rehoboth Beach Bears to help keep people warm this winter. CROP and the Bears are heading up a drive to collect hats, gloves, and coats to distribute to organizations helping those in need. It’s certain that another caravan of SUVs, transporting all that collected warmth, will be on the road with CROP this holiday season.
CROP volunteers can still be recognized by their bright green tee-shirts as they work with kids, clear debris from walking trails, deliver to the homeless, sort mountains of canned goods, or greet people at CAMP Rehoboth Chorus Concerts. Each year CROP volunteers contribute hundreds of hours toward making Rehoboth Beach and its surrounding communities a better place to live and visit.
CROP is always looking for more volunteers. It’s an opportunity to make friends and do good. Interested? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. ▼
Fay Jacobs is the author of five published books and is touring with her one-woman sit-down comedy show, Aging Gracelessly: Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me!