The CAMP Rehoboth Courtyard in 1990.
A Perfect CAMP Site
I often find myself marveling at how fast technology has changed our lives. Just typing these words is a perfect example: typewriters, word processors, PCs and Macs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones! Most of the time the evolution of our technology seems natural, and we lose sight of just how much everything has changed over time.
I love digital cameras—these days we all carry one in our pocket—and my digital photos are all organized in my files by the date they were shot. The same, I’m afraid, cannot be said about all of my pre-digital photographs. Oh sure, some of them are organized into albums, but the vast majority have resided for years in old shoe boxes in my studio. For some reason, a couple of weeks ago, I finally did what I had been promising myself I would do for years: I started organizing all those photographs. So now, every flat surface in my studio is covered in little piles of photos—and I still haven’t quite reached the bottom of those boxes!
Looking at those photos has reminded me of our history—both personal and that of CAMP Rehoboth. The biggest piles of photographs are the ones from the first years we came to Rehoboth Beach and shared a beach house with a group of friends who were like family to us. Like so many people who have found their way to Rehoboth Beach, our love affair with this town started in the friendships that grew out of spending summers together. Years later, changed by the AIDS epidemic and a desire to do something—anything—to stop the dying, that same group of friends—at least the ones still living—were instrumental in starting the first Sundance, and supporting the work of CAMP Rehoboth as our newly created organization was born.
Over the last week, one stack of photographs kept me thinking about the early days of CAMP Rehoboth. One of them showed the property at 39 Baltimore Avenue as it looked when it first captured my attention back in 1990. I clearly remember the moment I first saw it and thought, “We could do something with that.” A second photo showed the same property, a year or so later—including the rainbow fence that defined the property in the years before we redid the CAMP Courtyard and built the new wing of the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center. A third photo showed the space that is now Lori’s Café, occupied by the first CAMP Rehoboth office on one side, and The Watering Hole—the space that eventually evolved into Cuppa Joe and then Lori’s.
Like our technology, when we live through the changes, they don’t seem that dramatic. Comparing that little storefront and the first four-page issue of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth that was produced in it, to the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center and Letters magazine produced today, however, is another story.
One of the things I remember most about that time period was the clarity I felt when I first saw that Baltimore Avenue property sitting there completely empty. Call it destiny, or whatever you like, I felt a strong call that this was the right place. For what, I was just beginning to understand. I just knew in my heart, that this was the perfect CAMP site—the perfect place to build a little something called CAMP Rehoboth.
I’ve written about this many times, but I’ll say it again, CAMP is called CAMP for several reasons: first, it is an acronym for Create a More Positive; second, Rehoboth Beach was founded as a Methodist Church campground; and third, the humor embedded in that lovely combination of church and gay resort is a perfect example of “camp” humor. In my mind, there was no other choice—it just had to be CAMP Rehoboth.
Next year, CAMP Rehoboth will celebrate its 25th Anniversary. Looking back over all those years, I am deeply grateful for each and every person who has helped this organization to become what it has today. At every stage of its existence, members of this community have stepped up to serve on the Board of Directors and on its teams and committees, to volunteer for a wide range of activities and events, and to help fund the work of the entire organization.
Recently, the current CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors began the process of working with a consultant on the “Achieving Board Excellence” program with the Delaware Alliance for Non-Profit Advancement (DANA). At a Board retreat that is a part of that training program, our consultant commented on the number of times she heard Board members use the word “passionate” to describe their work with CAMP Rehoboth. That observation did not surprise me, and I’ve witnessed time and time again over the years, the commitment that members of our community bring to this organization.
It was passion that brought the first group together to workshop the concept of CAMP Rehoboth. It was passion that led folks to serve on the first Board of Directors. It was passion that created the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center Project and the CAMP Rehoboth Founders’ Circle whose donations made its construction possible. It was passion that developed the Women’s Project and the Women’s FEST that grew out of it. It was passion that made CAMPsafe a successful AIDS program, and created the CAMP-Mautner Project and other health programs. It was passion that created the CAMP Chorus and all the other programs and activities of CAMP Rehoboth. It was passion that inspired people from all over Delaware to work for marriage equality; non-discrimination in housing, insurance, and public accommodations; and for the inclusion of our transgender brothers and sisters in hate crime and non-discrimination legislation. It is passion that ignites the flame of conviction in our hearts, and inspires us all to continually strive to Create a More Positive world for all people—gay and straight!
CAMP Rehoboth has come a long way over the years since the photographs on this page were taken, but I’m most excited about where it will go next, and who will step up to take leadership positions in the future. We may have found the perfect CAMP site, but this is still just the beginning. With our generous members, and our amazing volunteers and sponsors, I continue to be passionate about what the future holds for our organization.
The first year of CAMP Rehoboth, I created a line of t-shirts: “Basic CAMP” was one; “CAMP Out” was another; and “Summer CAMP.” My favorite was “CAMP and Carry On,” which is, now that I think about it, a perfect slogan for what lies ahead.
CAMP and Carry On!
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Photos: The CAMP Rehoboth Courtyard and rainbow fence in the early 1990s; the first CAMP Rehoboth office.