Welcome to the Rehoboth Beach VIA!   

Our History

 

History of the Village Improvement Association

 

Lighthouse ReplicaIn 1909 a group of women decided that there were needs in Rehoboth Beach that were not being addressed and so the Village Improvement Association, also known as the VIA, was created. Over one hundred years later this club is still identifying critical needs and have invested their time and their money to that end. Come along with us and let us show you how we have made a difference in our town and the surrounding communities.       

 

Imagine if you will 1909 – 1919. There were no sidewalks, curbs, sanitation system, running water, streetlights, traffic patterns, libraries, pediatric care, seating on the boardwalk. Imagine a woman walking into the Atlantic Ocean with a one-piece wool bathing suit that would soon weigh at least thirty pounds when wet and trying desperately to return back to land. The VIA devoted their time and raised funds to correct all that including installing a life lines marked “VIA” from floats to the shore to help women weighed down by their bathing suits escape the surf.  One of the floats can still be seen today in the Rehoboth Museum.  The town now has all those important advantages because we…

  • Financed the purchase and installation of sidewalks and curbs
  • Financed the purchase of streetlights, street signs, house numbers
  • Suggested traffic patterns and speed limits
  • Began the Rehoboth Beach Public Library

In the 1920s …

  • Financed the purchase of streetlights, street signs, house numbers
  • Built the original VIA Clubhouse at the Boardwalk and Grenoble Place
  • Held the first Art Show which would later lead to the establishment of the Rehoboth Art League
  • Distributed information for mosquito control
  • Placed safety lines in the ocean for bathers
  • Purchased the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse replica

As the 1930s unfolded the club

  • Established free lunches in the local schools
  • Planted flowers and shrubs throughout the community
  • Began the Well Baby Clinic for the little ones
  • Placed drinking fountains at Baltimore and Delaware avenues on the Boardwalk
  • Provided boardwalk benches and trash cans
  • Petitioned for the preservation of town parks

When the 1940s began …

  • Started flower arranging classes which led to the establishment of the Sussex Gardeners
  • Clubhouse used during WWII for Red Cross, USO, X-ray machine operation, spanish classes
  • Conducted war bond, food and clothing drives for the war effort
  • Assisted Beebe Hospital and supported the local theater group

Everyone caught their breath after the war ended except the VIA. They turned their attention in the 1950s and 1960s to other needs.

  • Paid to have public bathrooms installed
  • Created a nursing scholarship that still exists today
  • Established a high school citizenship award that today is awarded to two deserving students
  • Added the Children’s Fishing Pier by the Lake Gerar bridge
  • Landscaped around Lake Gerar proper
  • Purchased the first town clock
  • Donated the City Council table for the new Town Hall
  • Installed Veterans Congressional Honor plaques at the foot of the trees along Rehoboth Avenue
  • Purchased Christmas decorations for the town of Rehoboth Beach
  • Established a Community Chest
  • Built the pavilion on Olive Avenue and Boardwalk
  • Raised funds for new band uniforms
  • Started fund for the Convention Center

By the 1970s we …

  • Helped establish the Cape Henlopen Senior Center
  • Furnished the kitchen in the Anna Hazard home
  • Worked out a two-year plan to establish the Rehoboth Day Care Center
  • Petitioned that a law be passed to prohibit high-rise building construction in town
  • Purchased gifts for Stockley Center residents
  • Began tutoring at Cape Henlopen High School

In the 1980s the club …

  • Established a micro-nature dune park in front of our clubhouse adjoining the boardwalk
  • Began dune planting
  • Donated to the Railroad Station renovation
  • Began tutoring at Cape Henlopen High School
  • Became involved with the HOBY program, a leadership program for sophomore students
  • Helped fun construction of the bandstand

The decade of the 1990s brought new needs and opportunities to help and volunteer our time…

  • Published the first edition of the Taste of Henlopen cookbook (there are now three editions) with all profits given to charity
  • Organized a Centennial Ball for Rehoboth Beach
  • Purchased beach wheelchairs for the disabled
  • Began feeding National Trails Day volunteers at Cape Henlopen State Park
  • Became docents on the Rehoboth Art League Cottage Tour
  • Used our parking lot for the operation of the Mammography Van
  • Aided in the newly formed West Side New Beginnings program
  • Began volunteering with the Main Street Kiosk, The Rehoboth Beach Public Library, the Rehoboth Beach Museum, the Rehoboth Art League and the Chocolate Festival
  • Established a new fundraiser, our Golf Tournament

As the years turned into a new century we became aware of many more needs and as a result …

  • Started a new fundraiser,  the St. Nicholas Tea
  • Painted murals at the Stockley Center and the Senior Center
  • Collected items for the Stockings for Soldiers project
  • Donated food to the Cape Henlopen Food Bank
  • Donated phones for Troops and the Crisis House
  • Sent children’s books to the Georgetown Crisis center
  • Established a permanent scholarship at the Rehoboth Art League for the Young at Art contest
  • Instituted the VIA Citizenship of the Year Award
  • Went on line with a newly developed website, always looking forward

In 2010 and on we found ourselves bulging at the seams so we…

  • Doubled the size of our clubhouse
  • Paid off our mortgage in two years while maintaining the same donation levels to our community
  • Began our two-year homeless project funding a family in their efforts to obtain a home, furnishings, job and fresh start
  • Started new fundraisers – the Fashion Show, Designer Show House, Chicken Plunge and facility rentals
  • Began volunteer efforts at the Community Resource Center
  • Helped the Water Step and Heifer programs through International Outreach
  • Became involved with the Cape Henlopen Food Basket
  • Knitted and crocheted preemie caps for Beebe Medical Center
  • Began baby showers to support the Harry K Baby Pantry
  • Collected Christmas gifts for the West Side New Beginning program
  • Partnered with Tunnell Cancer Center and the Rehoboth Art League in cancer prevention and awareness programs such as Courage Unmasked Program
  • Focused volunteer efforts in support of the Cancer Community through Pillowcases for Hope and Caring Stitchers who provide lap robes, chemo caps and prayer shawls to Tunnell Cancer Center

We have just begun. Our objective to “improve and increase the intellectual culture, educational advancement and moral development of its members, to further and promote the interests, improvements and progress of Rehoboth Beach, DE; to do and perform whatever charitable and civic work at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and elsewhere as may from time to time be decided upon by our members” is a wonderful challenge for our club.

Past Presidents of VIA