What has CAMP Done for Me Lately?
In the shadow of CAMP Rehoboth’s 25th Anniversary Gala and street party, after the clean-up was done, and the celebrating relegated to photos and memories, (and perhaps a hangover or two) a funny thing happened to me.
I began to wonder about CAMP Rehoboth’s legacy, and WHY so many people joyously give their time and talent, not to mention donations, to this small non-profit in lower, slower Delaware. I’m a writer, I get to see my words in print. But many others volunteer passionately, for no public recognition or pay. What’s up with that?
In fact, even people who don’t participate in a single CAMP event or program, or those who grumble about too many e-mails or fundraising pitches, understand that it was CAMP Rehoboth, along with a few early and dedicated business owners, who grew the community surrounding Rehoboth Beach into a LGBT resort and hometown.
Curious, I started asking people what CAMP had ever done for them. Even folks who couldn’t think of anything at first, came to answer with a recurring theme: CAMP’s mission to make ‘room for all” really worked.
Here’s a sampling:
“CAMP didn’t lure me here per se but LGBT friends did because of the gay-friendly area. So, putting it into perspective, it was CAMP Rehoboth because of all the work they did to make this area the gay-happening place it has become. And I thank CAMP for this piece of paradise!” Jane Blue, Homeowner and CAMP Rehoboth Board Member
“CAMP made a headquarters to go to—so when you show up you check in at CAMP first to see what happenings the town is offering the gay folks. I love it here.” Poppy Champlin, Award-Winning Comic
“Irene and I had never even been to Rehoboth when Karen Gustafson told us to put our house on the market and move here! That was 2007 and we’ve never looked back. Thanks to CAMP we are so comfortable living here, with the option to get involved in as much or as little as we want. CAMP made this a great place to retire.” Linda Cheney, Homeowner
“With all CAMP Rehoboth has done to make the Rehoboth area an exciting and welcoming community for LGBT people, it’s a natural fit for Olivia Travel to partner with CAMP. Years ago, Olivia guests who saw ladies wearing Rehoboth T-shirts on our cruises were perplexed about where Rehoboth was located and what they could find there…now, with the community here so huge—and CAMP championing the Olivia partnership—everyone knows Rehoboth Beach!” Linda Kemp, Olivia Travel
“CAMP Rehoboth promoted a view of the world that made sense to me—that people are people, not categories. I witnessed the evolution of the organization’s presence in the coastal community from its beginning, and I’m grateful that Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald and their many supporters were so committed to the cause of fairness, equality, and peace. CAMP Rehoboth has given a great gift to all of us by working for the right causes day after day for 25 years.” Terry Plowman, Publisher, Delaware Beach Life
“Okay, I’m sick of them asking me for money and stuff, and I don’t go dance anymore or anything, but yeah, CAMP probably made this area good for gays. Do I have to give you my name?” Grumpy Anonymous
“Because of CAMP, I view Rehoboth as Gay-Mayberry, RFD because we retrofitted that idyllic small town with an entire generation of gay people who can finally be themselves and breathe—and giggle with straight neighbors about the vagaries of a life once in a closet. That, and Thrasher’s fries.” Brent Mundt
“In 1997 on our way to Myrtle Beach, SC, friends suggested we stop at ‘gay friendly’ Rehoboth. ‘Where? Could you spell that?!’ (I wrote down R-E-H-O-B-E-T-H.) So we stopped in Rehoboth, looked around and continued South. After two days in Myrtle Beach we felt Rehoboth calling us, so we packed up and headed back…and we didn’t know the half of it yet! We explored the beautiful downtown and stumbled upon (CAMP staffer) Kathy Weir in the tiny office of the fledgling CAMP Rehoboth. Kathy kindly spent a half hour explaining CAMP’s mission as an all-inclusive LGBT center with ‘room for all’. In that moment I knew I wanted to live in Rehoboth. If it weren’t for Kathy and CAMP, we probably would not have moved here…and what a shame that would have been!” Kathy Wiz, Homeowner and CAMP Board Member
“My realtor took me to CAMP Follies at the Convention Center, and I knew I wanted to live here!” Stefani Deoul, Homeowner
“When I came out of the closet, one of the first things I did was travel to Rehoboth Beach, where my small group of gay friends introduced me to their much wider circle of gay friends, including couples who’d been together 30 years or more. Already, CAMP seemed like a permanent part of the landscape, even though it had only been around for about five years at that time. Skimming through Letters (a much thinner volume then than today) introduced me to a large, vibrant, and caring community, working for justice, certainly—but more importantly, taking care of each other. I’ve heard stories from many gay friends...about coming out...and none of them experienced the cocoon of love and acceptance I found. CAMP had a lot to do with that.” Eric Peterson, Visitor and Volunteer
Have your own CAMP Rehoboth stories about why you reside in the area or visit Rehoboth? I’m collecting them. And I’d love to hear the tales. Please email me.