Gail Hecky, Jeanne Lavigne, and Yvonne Howard
This is the first time in five years that I’ve featured three people in the same Spotlight. These women were nominated together, however, for their collective involvement with the CAMP Mautner Cares Project, a collaborative effort between CAMP Rehoboth and the Mautner Project, a program to assist LGBT individuals with physical illnesses in the Rehoboth area who benefit from professionally supervised, volunteer-provided transportation and visits.
Gail: Gail grew up in a small village in the rural Amish country of Ohio, about 45 miles southeast of Cleveland. “Escaping as soon as I was of legal age,” she eventually landed in Athens, home of Ohio University, and often ranked the biggest party school in the nation. In an area of extreme poverty and a prevalence of progressive political activists, she “gained my chops in this area, divorced my husband, came out as a lesbian, and raised my son.”
Gail worked steadily in the field of education, teaching, supervising, and consulting before retiring once in 2003, and again in 2012 when she finally realized her dream of moving to the beach. She is thrilled to live so close to the Atlantic Ocean and to have found such a “welcoming and thriving LGBT community. Gail resides in Rehoboth, along with her two cats, Foxy and Maybelle.
Jeanne: Born at West Point and raised in Connecticut, Jeanne graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BS in Physical Therapy. She later earned a Masters Degree in Education from NYU. A retired physical therapist, she worked in rehab centers and in home care the majority of her career.
After retiring in 2011, Jeanne moved here from Westchester County, NY. She and her wife, Sheryl Schulte, live in Lewes along with their four cats, Mikey, Lovie, Sweet Pea, and Rosie. She enjoys exercising, gardening, volunteering, the beach, and spending time with her friends.
Yvonne: Born in the Bronx, New York, Yvonne’s family also lived in lower Manhattan, known then as the “melting pot.” They eventually settled in St. Albans, in Queens, New York.
Yvonne earned an Associates degree from Bronx Community College, a Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College, and a Master’s degree from NYU. She retired from teaching in June, 1985, and relocated to Hayward, CA. There she met a wonderful partner who died unexpectedly in 1990. She worked for the next 16 years as a Probation and Court Officer, retiring in March, 2006.
Yvonne later attended Bauman College, Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts School, and became a Certified Personal Chef. With the cost of living in California becoming “outrageous,” she bought a home in Lewes in June, 2010.
Yvonne met her future wife, Dr. Nancy Kennedy-Howard, online in January, 2012. They met in person two months later and were married on November 27, 2013. Married life has been “amazingly wonderful!” The newlyweds live in Millsboro, DE with their two wonderful keeshounds, BeBe and Betina.
When did you start volunteering at CAMP and what events/activities have you been involved with since?
Gail: One of the first programs to capture my attention at CAMP was the CAMP Chorus. That joyful adventure eventually led me to offering a hand in the chorus leadership, spending lots of time planning and coordinating stuff. Also soon after moving here in July of 2012, I learned of the Mautner Project. Offering rides, picking up food and visiting with folks, has proven to be an interesting way to assist others while learning the neighborhoods. Jeanne: 2012— Mailings, Black & White Ball, Sundance, Women’s FEST, Broadwalk on the Boardwalk, CAMP Mautner Training. Yvonne: I started volunteering at CAMP Mautner Cares in January, 2012.
What’s your best memory volunteering here?
Gail: The large mailings have been lots of fun as we can get to know one another while accomplishing the task at hand, often being treated to lunch. One highlight of ushering this year was using the vibrating flashlight to point out bidders during the auction at Womens FEST. Jeanne: The appreciation shown by clients receiving Mautner Cares services. Yvonne: One of the best memories was spending time in the car with my client, getting to know each other. He became one of my two special witnesses at my wedding ceremony.
Of the many events held by CAMP Rehoboth, which is your favorite and why?
Gail: How could I say anything other than the CAMP Chorus performances? We had a real blast putting on a show that by my accounts, audiences truly loved. Jeanne: Broadwalk on the Boardwalk—very moving experience. Yvonne: The launch party for CAMP Mautner Cares. It was a very special event that allowed me to feel a part of CAMP Rehoboth and to give back to the community.
Favorite season here at the beach and why?
Jeanne: Fall. The weather is cooler, it’s easier to get to restaurants and events, and it’s a lovely time to walk on the beach. Yvonne: Fall. When all of the tourists have left and the parking meters have gone back to sleep.
Most inspiring moment?
Jeanne: I saw a physical therapist working with children at Springfield (MA) Shriners Hospital. It inspired me to pursue a career in physical therapy which spanned 47 years. Yvonne: Becoming a personal chef and seeing how nutrition positively affects health, wellness, and attitude.
Favorite U.S. city and why?
Yvonne: Oakland, CA. I established my career as a probation officer and court officer there. This and other multiple opportunities resulted in a greater sense of self, and a resilience I never knew I had.
Name three of your “bucket list” items…
Gail: Rafting down the Grand Canyon; developing a close relationship with my (soon-to-be-born) grandchild; and learning Spanish. Yvonne: A trip to Gingerland, Nevis for our belated honeymoon; touring with my wife and two dogs; and a trip to Paris, France.
Best year of your life and why?
Jeanne: My 50th year. I met my spouse with whom I’ve since shared 21 great years.
Name the biggest change you’ve seen in Rehoboth and how long have you been coming here?
Gail: My introduction to Rehoboth Beach was with my high school boyfriend in 1969. He arranged for a group of us to rent a house so we could act delinquent while enjoying the beautiful, accessible beaches. We weren’t ready for the four-hour traffic jam to cross the Bay Bridge. Thank goodness the Bay Bridge is now much easier and safer to cross from the west, as is the Indian River Inlet Bridge from the south. Of course, Rehoboth Avenue has been expanded and improved as well. I love the shops and the mews along the main drag. Unfortunately, with improvements come costs and the parking meters have certainly spread further from the center of town over the years.
Name three events that have shaped your life to where it is.
Gail: The Civil Rights Movement in the late ‘60s and ‘70s opened my eyes to a whole world of racism and discrimination about which I had no clue. It helped me learn the costs and benefits of civil disobedience and the realities of living in a democracy. My own membership in a consciousness-raising group in the ‘70s in which I learned about sexism and women’s rights, and participated with groups working to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Attendance at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival in the ‘80s showing me how dreams can be realized.
What are you most thankful for?
Gail: To be healthy enough to continue participating in so many of the physical activities I love: dancing, biking, walking, yoga, swimming, singing, playing my sax. Jeanne: My loving spouse and good friends. Yvonne: I’m most thankful for the tolerance and empathy that my parents bestowed upon me. It provided me the opportunity to meet and interact with people from all walks of life. As a woman of color in a predominately Caucasian community, I feel that I’m an integral part of the CAMP Rehoboth community. I hope that I can serve as a role model for other people of color.
On behalf of the staff and Board of Directors, our sincere thanks for the dedicated work you’ve each offered to the CAMP Mautner Cares Project. It is just one of the many important programs offered in partnership by CAMP Rehoboth.
Know someone whose efforts should be considered for the CAMP Rehoboth Volunteer Spotlight? Email your suggestion.