Lawrence Booth was born in San Antonio Texas and first came to New Hope in January of 1995.
His first impression of New Hope was that it was a very quaint, very walk-able, very welcoming, very gay-friendly municipality, extremely rich in history and beautifully located on the Delaware.
Lawrence was drawn to all the nature in New Hope with the “trees, beautiful gardens, positively charged ion rich air (due to the beautiful Delaware River), streams, horses, sheep, birds, wildlife and the like,” adding, “ I don’t want to live anywhere else.”
He said it was his spouse Michael Richardson, who influenced his moving here. Besides Michael, the person who influenced his move was Charlie Ballard. Lawrence said, “Michael was working out of the country in July when I moved here permanently. Charlie took me under his wing and introduced me to all of the locals. WOW, I was hooked. Everyone was so nice. I remember going to one of Charlie’s renowned themed parties with Michael. We were sitting at a table with all types of people, from all types of backgrounds, with all types of life-experiences, occupations, socio-economic levels, intellects, political affiliations, religious ideologies, etc., but they all were accepting and fun-loving people. I was awe struck! Who, in their right frame of mind, does not want to be surrounded by such positive, happy and mentally healing energy?”
He added that having been raised in an unhealthy, religiously fanatic and socially limiting community of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and “Don’t tell Momma or your neighbors,” New Hope was liberating. “I had travelled a bit and I knew of few places, even Amsterdam that could offer what this community offered in spades. It was a small town with a huge heart, which did not just “tolerate” individuals, but embraced them. Every human on this planet wants to be loved unconditionally. However, one has to be full exposed and valuable first. New Hope creates that safe and cathartic environment.”
Lawrence said, “Being in the U.S. Air force at the time, New Hope was a place I could be more “me” and not worry about my sexual orientation being a definitive factor of my character. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was not an issue here. This imparted not only a great deal of physical freedom from societal judgments, religious persecutions and superficial labels. More importantly, New Hope granted me permission to liberate myself psychologically and spiritually. I felt I grew more as a human being.”
Lawrence worked as a chauffeur, personal valet and store manager in Lambertville for a family in Princeton, NJ. When their empire “dissolved” in 2003, he went back to school to become a teacher.
He now works with severely, emotionally disturbed high school students at East Mountain School, which is a part of Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead, NJ. It is the largest not-for-profit health facility in the state. Lawrence said, “Basically, I teach students how to love themselves. My family may have given me that foundation, but New Hope gave me the environment in which to practice it. I now pass it onto others and rave about where I live to my colleagues and students.”
Lawrence is the first and only “school coordinator” at the East Mountain School. He said,” I do not have a school supervisor’s license and did not want to go back to school for the five additional classes that the school was willing to pay for, but the school wanted me to fill the position. So, East Mountain School created a “coordinator” position just for me. I do almost all the duties required of a licensed supervisor, except sign official documents. I love my job and have been there for over 10 years. I also won ASAH Teacher of the Year for Region II in 2008.”
Lawrence is also the President of the organization Again. He was also President of the Board of Trustees of the Free Library of New Hope & Solebury. He said, “One day a friend of mine, Shirley Hart, asked me to join her on the Board of Trustees, Shirley, in her 70s at the time and always being direct said to me, “Lawrence you are a young gay man and we need someone on the Board to represent your demographic. You need to represent your people.” Here was an older, Jewish, straight woman telling me I need to “represent my people.” Long story short, I joined and eventually served as president. I thought I was the first openly gay president, but alas that honor goes to Paul Licitra’s domestic partner, Warren who became president around 2002. I guess I just have to settle for the youngest president to have ever served.”
Lawrence is currently Treasurer for the Friends of the Free Library of New Hope & Solebury and the first openly gay Director of the Delaware Valley Fire Museum.
There are currently 53 non-for-profit organizations in New Hope & Solebury. Lawrence said, “The people who are involved in these organizations energize me. They are the people who keep the doors open to the many organizations that enrich our community.”
Lawrence’s favorite memories of New Hope are “the many drag and Cartwheel shows that raised money for various causes, the outpouring of love and support from the community when my husband was gravely ill and the days my family & friends came to visit when I was able to share New Hope with them and see their eyes fill with awe; they love coming to visit.”
He noted his biggest achievement was doing a fundraiser for the library at Joseph Stanley’s Cintra in New Hope, which raised over $38,000.00 and gifted 1.5 acres of land to possibly build a new library including architectural plans from the world renowned J. Robert Hillier. Lawrence said, “The Bucks County Herald gave us two full pages, which I immediately laminated for longevity. I have never felt so proud of myself, the library, the community nor have I forgotten the generosity of both the old and new owners of the property.”
When not busy with work and his philanthropic endeavors, Lawrence goes to the Raven, Martine’s, Karla’s, Square One Pub and the Logan Inn for food & libation and the Bucks County Play House and Phillips Mill for shows. He said, “This area is extremely rich in culture, art, libation and culinary delights and we frequent the New Hope Arts Center, Blue Moose, Nektar, Fred’s and many other restaurants and art galleries both here and in Lambertville. There are too many to name individually.”
Lawrence said, “New Hope’s LGBT community impressed upon me to be philanthropic. Whether it is paying for someone’s HIV medication like my spouse did for two years, attending one of Miss Pumpkin’s fundraisers or answering the call of the library to “represent my people,” I have something to offer; we all do. In fact, we have an obligation as human beings to help where and when we can. I now bring that to my work. I am the creator and captain of the G.E.M.S. Team (Go East Mountain School) at the annual Walk of Hope at Carrier Clinic. Who know what I will do tomorrow. Whatever it is, rest assured I will bring the spirit of New Hope with me.”