A Life of Service
Tama Viola was born and raised in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, graduating from Dunmore High School in 1980. She had various jobs prior to joining the military, including bank teller and armed guard for the armored truck that delivered to the bank where she worked. In her free time, she helped her father on his construction jobs. Joining the Army enabled her to travel the world and to acquire many more skills.
Tama always jumped at the chance to learn and “wear a new hat.” She had many “hats” in her military career, from supply duties to financial services to running a mail room. She retired as a Master Sergeant specializing in personnel resource management.
After retirement she took up golf, tried ballroom dancing, and even took a cooking class. She did a lot of fun things including jumping out of an airplane and being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. She is always looking for new adventures!
When did you start volunteering with CAMP Rehoboth?
I have been a member of CAMP Rehoboth for over five years and was initially called upon to build shelves for a storage unit. My first “official” CAMP Rehoboth volunteer gig was for Suede’s performance at Epworth United Methodist Church (EUMC) last month.
What events/activities have you been involved with as a volunteer?
My earliest memory of volunteering was helping sort clothes after Hurricane Agnes flooded Northeastern Pennsylvania in 1972. I was 10 years old. During high school I took a cake-decorating class and made many cakes for our bake sales. I also walked dogs at the local shelter.
After Desert Storm began, I became the first female member of my hometown VFW, where I later became the first female commander. I was a volunteer deputy for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which was a great way to enjoy the outdoors and meet new people. I was also a volunteer firefighter for a small town where I lived. And, for fun, I spent many hours volunteering at a horse farm, taking care of show horses.
After moving to Delaware, I became involved with food rescue at EUMC, which provides food to those in need. Last year, prior to COVID, I volunteered with the Women’s Build for Habitat for Humanity. It was very rewarding; I’m looking forward to the next build.
During COVID, I grocery shopped and ran errands for my elderly neighbors. I live in a great community and enjoy helping my neighbors.
What has been your best memory volunteering with CAMP Rehoboth?
The Suede event! It was so nice to meet new people and it was great to see the faces I have missed since the pandemic.
Name a childhood mentor or someone who influenced you.
My mother was my greatest influence. I like to think I have a lot of her qualities—her independence, strong morals, compassion, and of course her love of dance. We even took country line dance lessons together. She passed away too soon; I know she would have loved it here at the beach.
The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in the fight for equality over recent years. Did you expect to see this in your lifetime? Thoughts?
I was in the military during “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Early in my career, I had a scare when a relationship ended and I received threats about throwing me out of the military. I was lucky that my career did not end. From then on, I stayed below the radar, not risking a discharge. I never imagined that the LGBTQ community would come so far. I attended my very first Pride parade with great friends in Washington, DC in 2019. It was so gratifying, seeing how far we have come and seeing so many young people not afraid to be out!
Are you concerned about the possible loss of rights for the LGBTQ community? Please explain why or why not.
I think everyone in the LGBTQ community is concerned about losing rights that have taken us so long to obtain. We have come too far to go backward even one step. I appreciate the generations of women who came before me to help clear the path for me.
What brings you joy?
My life at the beach, my love of dancing, and my dog, Annabelle! Annabelle loves to dress up and has her own closet for the many wardrobe changes we have made over her 10 years. She has been featured in Letters (CAMP Critters), and won $1,000 in the 2020 DelmarvaLife Facemask contest. (We donated the money to the Delaware Food Bank.) This year Annabelle became the mascot of the Delaware Senior Olympics—she even has her own Facebook page! She is my joy, which I happily share with the world. ▼
Karen Laitman is a member of CAMP Rehoboth’s Volunteer Development Committee.