CROP: In the Community Planting Seeds of Love
There is an old adage that says “every cloud has a silver lining.” Who would have imagined that the many clouds of Hurricane Katrina would result in the development of one of CAMP Rehoboth’s most visible programs in the community? However, that is exactly how the CAMP Rehoboth Outreach Program (CROP) was born.
Neighbor Helping Neighbor
In 2007 Claire Ippoliti was volunteering with relief efforts in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was a life-changing experience for her. She saw people from all over the country, from all walks of life, coming together to serve. However Claire also saw something else. “There is a difference when people come from outside the community to volunteer,” she explains. “When you volunteer in your own community, you are in effect helping yourself, your neighbors and your own community.” When Claire returned home, she brought that excitement back to the credit union where she worked and organized volunteer opportunities there. During a visit to Rehoboth the following year, she wondered how a volunteer program might be developed through CAMP Rehoboth. “I wrote a letter to Mr. Elkins at CAMP Rehoboth, outlining my thoughts,” explains Claire. Soon she received a call from the CAMP office. It was Executive Director Steve Elkins. “The first thing he said was “What is this ‘Dear Mr. Elkins’ stuff? Just call me Steve!” With a shared laugh, the two scheduled a meeting and plans quickly came together.
The Early Days
Claire’s vision was for a “Volunteer on Vacation (VOV)” program. The idea was that folks who came to Rehoboth Beach to vacation or spend their weekends would volunteer as part of their time at the beach. However, VOV had another goal that was just as important. “We know that when people get to know someone who is gay or lesbian, they are more open and less likely to make stereotypical statements about the LGBTQ community,” Claire explains. Bringing different groups of people has always been a part of CAMP Rehoboth’s mission, and Claire’s vision for VOV was a perfect fit. In 2009, VOV reached out to the West Rehoboth Community Center, which serves predominantly minority children just outside the Rehoboth Beach city limits. VOV organizers met with staff at the Community Center to discuss what types of projects would be helpful to them. In that first year, VOV volunteers help to paint the community center, organized a “West Side Challenge” to gather valuable items needed in the community, held a “Career Day” for the children, as well as offering a “fun with music” class and a dining etiquette class.
The core group of volunteers, which included Barbara Antlitz, Muriel Hogan, Claire Ippoliti, Leslie Sinclair, Kathy Wiz, and Debbie Woods, celebrated the successes of that first year. They also realized the program could be sustainable and become a valued part of the CAMP Rehoboth family.
Through the Years
Some things have changed over the ten years that the program has been a part of CAMP Rehoboth. The most obvious one is that name. “We realized that ‘Volunteer on Vacation’ no longer accurately reflected who we were,” shares Debbie Woods. Volunteers in the program now included visitors and residents alike, and volunteer activities were happening every month, all year long. “In 2015 we changed the name to the CAMP Rehoboth Outreach Program (CROP).”The program also is known for its lime-green tee-shirts and their philosophy “Volunteers planting seeds of love in the community.”
Another thing that has changed is the scope of activities undertaken by the group. In 2017, CROP had a bumper crop of sixteen completed projects, including cooking and serving meals at a local homeless shelter, helping out at the Southern Delaware Therapeutic Riding facility in Milton, volunteering at the Food Bank of Delaware, and reaching out to international exchange students through a food program at Epworth United Methodist Church. CROP members often serve as ushers at CAMP Chorus concerts, and their presence is a wonderful addition to the AIDS Walk held each September in Rehoboth Beach. However, one of the most successful projects was painting the bedrooms and offices at the People Place Girls’ Group Home in Milford. That project drew 24 volunteers, many of them volunteering with CROP for the first time. Both CAMP Rehoboth and two of our volunteers were recognized with awards for this work. In 2017, CROP members put in a total of 730 volunteer hours, with a total value to the community of $17,500!
Looking to the Future
Surely CROP will continue to grow as it enters its second decade of life. The desire to continue the trend to reach outside the Rehoboth/Lewes area of Sussex County is strong. An Open House hosted by CROP in February 2018 drew nearly 30 attendees, and it was very successful in signing up persons interested in both projects and leadership positions. However, there is always room for more! For more information about CROP, send an email CROP or learn more on CROP here.
Membership dollars help support program activities. Help us continue by becoming a Member now, upgrading your current membership, or by rejoining if you have not renewed. JOIN NOW, call 302-227-5620, or just stop by to sign up today!▼
Glen C. Pruitt, a CAMP Rehoboth Board member, does quality assurance work for non-profit organizations and government agencies.