The holidays are a time when many people decide to give back to their community. But there is a smaller group of people who volunteer their time to make their community better all year long.
Becky and Marvin Carney fall into the latter category.
The Carneys are slightly territorial about the Cape Region. The couple said they decided to start the annual Beach Book because they saw outsiders coming to the area and trying to represent its culture in glossy books that contained little more than hotel advertisements.
“We felt they weren’t representing the area as well as we could,” Marvin said.
The couple, along with local photographer Kevin Fleming, composed the first Beach Book in 2010, filled with information on local events, activities, restaurants and Fleming’s photography.
Now in its third year, the Beach Book is the only one of its kind. “People love it,” Becky said. “And it’s grown.”
“They get to see part of the local flair,” Marvin said of the book’s audience.
Becky and Marvin Carney are in a good position to testify to the local flair of the Cape Region.
Becky, 61, was born at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes. She grew up in Ocean View and attended Lord Baltimore Elementary School, where the couple’s grandson, Trey Kauffman, is a now a student. “Our grandson is the fifth generation in the family to go to that school,” Becky said.
Becky moved to Lewes as a teenager and attended Lewes High School. She said she was the first female lifeguard hired at Lewes Beach, around 1970.
Marvin, 59, grew up in Dover. After graduating from Dover High School, he left home for the Big Apple, where he studied fashion photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Marvin graduated in 1974, and said he worked in the New York fashion industry for a few years before moving to Sussex County. “I came back because I missed the beach,” he said.
Becky and Marvin met 19 years ago. Marvin worked in advertising and marketing for Grotto Pizza; Becky was the company’s human resources officer. Marvin began organizing off-premise events for the pizzeria. “And he kept dragging me along,” Becky said, smiling.
Marvin and Becky married 12 years ago; they live in the Milton home Marvin has owned for more than 30 years. The home is clean, but has none of the showroom feel of many homes in the Cape Region. It feels like a home where children were raised and now come back every Christmas to spend the day - which, coincidentally, they do.
Papers stacked on the kitchen counter are evidence of the couple’s busy life together. But Becky and Marvin are always smiling, never appearing stressed, and ready to drop everything to sit and chat and offer their guest a cup of coffee.
In their time together, the Carneys have done much to give back to the community.
Together, the couple belongs to three local chambers of commerce - Lewes, Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach and Bethany-Fenwick. “We try to stay as active as possible in all those,” Marvin said. Marvin has been on the board of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce for 13 years.
For three years, the couple was active on the committee that organized the annual Heart Ball, a fundraiser for the Delaware Heart Association. The event has since moved to Kent County.
The Carneys are also involved in the annual Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chefs’ Beach Brunch, and Marvin was on the committee that brought the event to Rehoboth Beach for the first time, in 2003.
This year, the event was split into a two-day benefit, with an auction and cocktail party the first day and a golf tournament the next day. Becky said Meals on Wheels raised more money by spreading the event over two days. “They were surprised at how much money they raised,” she said.
Becky and Marvin were instrumental in organizing the golf tournament and donated Beach Books to help raise funds.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Becky decided to volunteer beyond her own community. She and her best friend, Bobbi Engel, founded the Delaware Beach Brigade, a group of 10 volunteers who went to Mississippi on three missions to help clean up after the disaster.
Becky has also been a Delaware Hospice volunteer for five years. She is also an employee at Cadbury Assisted Living, where she works with a dietician to select the daily menu for residents – a job she said she loves.
In the summer, Becky works part time at Just Comfort Shoes, owned by her friends, Dennis and Sharonlee Diehl.
For 12 years, Marvin was art director at Atlantic Litho Printers, a printing company based in Midway Shopping Center.
Marvin is responsible for many business logos and menu designs in the region, including the logo for Beebe Medical Center. He has also designed posters for Rehoboth Beach Main Street’s Downtown’s Cookin' event and Azura Clothing’s Cocoa Crawl and Get Down in Town events.
Marvin said he recently went back to his roots in fashion photography to help Azura owner Alyssa Titus produce a clothing catalogue. “It was fun to do that because I hadn’t done it for awhile,” he said.
The Carneys also cater events part time at the Virden Center in Lewes. Becky said Marvin cooks, and she helps wherever she is needed, from hostessing to prepping food to cutting a wedding cake.
The 2013 Beach Book is expected to hit shelves in May. The Carneys and Fleming partnered with Southern Delaware Tourism to include a feature about the tourism group’s Local on the Menu initiative, which highlights the farm-to-table relationship between the agriculture industry and the culinary arts in Sussex County.
The Carneys said the 2013 book will also include pieces on underwater spear fishing off Lewes Beach and a history of the Indian River Inlet bridge from the perspective of a lifelong Sussex Countian.
Becky said the Cape Region is an area where small businesses have the chance to succeed. “Which we are very, very grateful for - that we have enough businesses to support this book,” she said.
Becky and Marvin said they try to save up their free time and take vacations to Nag’s Head, N.C., in the off-season. Two years ago, they visited their son, Sean, in New Zealand; now, they are saving money to visit him in Australia.
Marvin and Becky said they enjoy the beach, the bay and the sense of community that comes with living in the Cape Region. “We love our community, and we like to be involved,” Becky said.