Letters From Camp Rehoboth
Letters From Camp Rehoboth – REHOBOTH BEACH – For nearly half a century, Rehoboth Beach has been a premier Atlantic location for the LGBTQ+ community, supported by a thriving coalition of events and non-profits to cultivate a welcoming atmosphere. While CAMP Rehoboth started as a newsletter for the queer community in 1991, it has grown into an advocacy organization.
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Letters From Camp Rehoboth
REHOBOTH BEACH – For nearly half a century, Rehoboth Beach has been a premier Atlantic location for the LGBTQ+ community, supported by a thriving coalition of events and non-profits to cultivate a welcoming atmosphere.
Camp Rehoboth Executive Director Resigns
Letters from Camp Rehoboth May 2019 Newsletter | PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMP REHOBOTH While CAMP Rehoboth started as a newsletter for the queer community in 1991, it has grown into an advocacy organization working to make communities safe where gender identity and sexual orientation are respect The nonprofit now has a community center at 37 Baltimore St., and serves as an unofficial chamber of commerce and resource center for visitors and residents. “CAMP in some ways has really become the heart of the community. We don’t operate in an official capacity to impact businesses, but there has been so much crossover over the past three decades,” said Chris Beagle, a real estate agent and former board president of CAMP Rehoboth. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people who identify as LGBTQ that the main reason they moved here was because they felt safe and included.” Rehoboth Beach’s status as a gay-friendly resort is said to begin at least as far back as the 1940s, but modern news reports suggest it became more visible in the 1970s. Gay men in Washington, DC , Philadelphia and Baltimore summered there, and house parties were the common gathering place. Gay dance clubs like the Boathouse and the Renegade opened that decade, thriving outside of the nightclub scene and performing drag shows. “It wasn’t until I started working at the Renegade [as a remodeling contractor in 1997] that I learned what it meant to be transgender, and it was all because drag queens told me I couldn’t don’t compete for that. They knew what they were talking about,” said Kathy Carpenter-Brown, president and owner of Brown’s Real Estate Services. “I get my information from my peers, because people talk. It was a beautiful thing – Renegades was where we met.” By the time the 80s and 90s arrived, Rehoboth Beach added more gay and lesbian bars and restaurants, such as Blue Moon, Cloud 9 and Tijuana Tavern, more restaurants added contemporary cuisine. But as the queer community became more visible, residents began to worry about the city’s reputation. Stickers appeared that read “Keep Rehoboth a Family Town.” In 1993, four men attacked two gay men on the boardwalk with a bottle and a baseball bat. In the midst of all this turmoil, CAMP Rehoboth – an acronym for “Create a More Positive” Rehoboth was established. Letters from CAMP Rehoboth first started with four pages, and now they have grown to 120 pages and are sent to many cities in the mid-Atlantic region. “CAMP is kind of a home base for the community. If you’re a gay guy from Arkansas or Missouri, and you see Letters, you can discover all the bars, restaurants and what’s going on,” said Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar which came to the beach in the 1990s. , and went bar hopping in various places for years, and eventually returned to open its second location in downtown Rehoboth. “CAMP is really where you can go for any advice, help – anything you need.” Under the leadership of Steve Elkins and her husband, Murray Archibald, CAMP launched health programs such as HIV testing and various support groups, as well as various arts programs. But their greatest legacy may be their work towards the legalization of gay marriage in 2011. The couple testified in support of the bill and Governor Jack Markell signed the bill at CAMP Rehoboth. The first same-sex wedding in Sussex County took place at its community center, cementing the marriage between Beagle and her husband. “When I came into this, we fought for the basic components of everyday life: not to worry about losing your job, the right to marry legally. People were dying left and right, and they needed support “, he said. “While we were advocating [for that bill], I started hearing from people in Seaford and other parts of the state, asking to create a CAMP for them. That’s when we became, in a small way, a voice for the community. Today, CAMP Rehoboth has created a mature environment for various initiatives and non-profits. Rehoboth Women’s FEST, a collection of national and regional entertainment to celebrate women in its 22nd year, seeks a future that welcomes all people, no matter not sexual orientation or gender identity. Sussex Pride was launched this year, with the aim of highlighting health, housing and community resources for all LGBTQ+ residents in Sussex County. While the gay community and lesbian and businesses quickly intertwined, Carpenter-Brown said the trans community has struggled to achieve that kind of acceptance. So in 2017 she helped create Rehoboth TransLiance, a social group for transgender individuals and gender r-diverse in the Rehoboth Beach area — in what he sees as another sign of progress for the community. “I love our beach towns, and I really see it becoming more welcoming. In the 1990s, gay bars were the thing. If you were a gay business owner, gay people were your customers, and in some points was beneficial for your business. But if you identified as trans, no, they didn’t want to do business with you. But now, nobody cares. You can be what you are. It’s dramatically different,” he said . CAMP Rehoboth is also changing with the tide. Elkins died in 2018, leaving behind a leadership team to step up. In 2019, David Mariner was hired as executive director until he resigned this year to form Sussex Pride. CAMP Rehoboth named Lisa Evans as interim executive director last month. She will serve until the board has completed strategic planning for the organization’s future, Beagle said. “I think one of CAMP’s strengths is its ability to adapt and respond to time, and you saw that in the defense in 2011 and more recently. It has become a symbol of our success at rallying. In 10 years, we will have so many thriving LGBTQ organizations, and I will stand back and be proud of the impact,” he said. “I believe collectively, we have become a stronger voice now more than ever.”