by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
Q-Squared, a local men's organization, is working to 'raise community to the power of you.' It does this primarily through its annual camping getaway. And it's no small affair - this year's CAMP, which took place over Labor Day weekend, brought out 90 people. CAMP is an acronym that reflects its nature and goal: Come and Meet People.
CAMP is a four-day weekend in the woods, intended to 'create an atmosphere, a place, and the time to sit around and get to know people on a deeper level,' said Barry Johnson, who serves as vice-president of Q-Squared's board and has been involved with CAMP since 2000.
NO EMAIL ALLOWED
Q-Squared's CAMP is an alcohol, drug, and email-free event, which features activities such as dances, workshops on various topics, and sports to foster cohesiveness within the large group, which usually ranges from about 80 to 130 people.
The event draws men from all backgrounds, including regional, socioeconomic, race/ethnic, and age. Transmen are also welcome. 'Anybody who identifies as a man,' Johnson told SGN. 'We're about as diverse a group as I think you can get.'
Originally a program of Gay City Health Project, Q-Squared was born in 2006, from the need of CAMP to become a yearlong, ongoing community-building organization.
'The primary people involved with CAMP believed it needed more attention than the Gay City board provided at the time,' said Johnson. This, he said, wasn't Gay City's fault. It was more that those involved saw its potential, which Gay City simply couldn't provide enough assistance in fulfilling, given its other roles in the community.
The first CAMP took place over Labor Day weekend of 1996. Gay City envisioned it as an event where Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender men could remove themselves from the daily stresses of urban life and build a sense of community.
'The event itself hasn't changed,' Johnson told SGN.
Q-Squared exists simply to expand upon the benefits that CAMP provides, by bringing the values of CAMP to the urban LGBT community. It does this though monthly get-togethers and holiday events like the upcoming Thanksgiving potluck and Christmas party.
A LABOR OF LOVE
All of these events, including CAMP, are volunteer-driven. The whole organization is. One of Q-Squared's tenets is that 'community building and diversity can best be achieved through a volunteer-driven organization.'
'Our leadership, the people that have emerged as the leaders in the organization, have all come from within the group, people who said, 'I'll step up and put in my best effort,' Johnson told SGN. 'It brings growth and leadership opportunities to people who may not have had that opportunity otherwise.'
'It's what's really kept the event going for 18 years now,' Johnson added.
One of Q-Squared's best additions is 'Q-Spring,' a smaller, more intimate getaway weekend which began in 2008.
Q-Spring is shorter than CAMP, and has a max attendance allotment of 36. It's more focused on workshops than CAMP, and is aimed towards personal growth and development as well as community.
'It's more inward-focused,' said Johnson. 'There are spiritual workshops, discussions about relationships - last year we had a discussion about marriage.'
Next year's Q-Spring will take place April 25-27.
Q-Squared is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to improving the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of sexual minority men by building a stronger sense of community, increasing individual responsibility, and improving self-esteem through CAMP and related community-based activities. Learn more at www.qsquared.org.
'I met my now-husband there. My close circle of friends I met at CAMP,' said Johnson. 'It's given me confidence. It's greatly improved my ability to lead and speak in front of bigger groups. It's given me confidence to state my opinions and know that those opinions are respected.'
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