Camel Club in Santa Rosa Beach Makes a Difference

November 25, 2011 by Tom McGee

“Why do they call this place The Camel Club?”, my newly acquired friend from Tennessee asked me.

I replied, “It was my idea. Having been around the recovering community for many years, I have always heard the saying ‘A camel can go a week without a drink. A man ought to be able to go one day’” .

“I have been to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings all over the United States and in some foreign countries, but this is the beautiful most clubhouse I have ever been in”, my Tennessee friend observed.

“We meant it to be a place that says to local folks and visitors to our community that are  in a program of recovery, you are winners and deserve to meet in a respectable place”, I responded.  

“But how did the Camel Club get built?” my interested visitor inquired.

I went on to give him the history of how the Camel Club came to be. A friend of mine, Van Ness Butler, Jr., and I had long discussed the need for a respectable place where local and visiting members of the recovering community could meet. We especially saw the need for our many recovering visitors to have a place they could attend meetings while away from their homes.

The first thing we did was to approach the St. Joe Company,  to see if they had any suitable land they could sell us at a price we could afford. St. Joe saw the need for the club and generously made available to us the two acres we have on East Hewitt, at a price we could not refuse.

After that we received estimates form contractors that revealed it would take $140,000 to “dry in” the building. My wife Karen cooked a gumbo dinner at our house where four generous families put up $35,000 each to get us started. Six years ago, the local recovering community held its annual Christmas party at the unfinished club. We ate and had our traditional meeting by candlelight.

As I expained to my visiting friend, the club is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation governed by a seven person board elected from the  membership. We welcome contributions--which are tax deductible. To date, more than 187 individuals, companies and organizations have contributed money, professional services, and materials to make the Camel Club a reality. Of course, we have ongoing normal operating expenses to keep the doors open.

Today, the Camel Club hosts twenty-one AA, NA, and Alanon meetings seven days a week to meet the needs of both the local recovering community and our many friends who come from all over the country. Well over a thousand people a month attend meetings at the Club.

My new friend from Tennessee told me, “I hope the folks in your community tell any friends, relatives or employees they know who are struggling with addictions that they can come to the Camel Club and hang out with winners who are living successful productive lives”. I assured him that we do all we can to get the word out.   

I reminded our visitor that the Camel Club is located at 249 East Hewitt Rd. East Hewitt Rd. is 1/4 mile west of the intersection of Hwy. 30-A and Hwy. 98 in Santa Rosa Beach. The phone number is (850) 622 2144, and our website is


Tom McGee's picture

Judge Tom was born in North Louisiana but his family moved to New Orleans, The City That Care Forgot, when he was nine years old. He likes to say he was born a Redneck, but raised a Creole. He has spent half his life in courtrooms as a trial lawyer, prosecutor and judge.

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