By Rotarian Al Kalter

This is the 20th year that the Rotary Club of Bartram Trail – Julington Creek has been serving the community and the world. This energetic, friendly group meets each Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. at Westminster Woods retirement community — but this Rotary Club is far from retiring. With projects that range from providing water in Central America to building wheelchair ramps for local citizens, Bartram Trail Rotarians truly live the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self.”

Later this year, the club will officially celebrate its 20th anniversary, so this is a good opportunity to look back on how it all began.

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Way back in 1905, Paul Harris gathered with three friends in his office in Chicago in what is recognized as the first Rotary meeting. Seven years later, on Feb. 13, 1912, a group of 14 businessmen met at Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville to organize the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, the 41st Rotary Club in the world. 

In 1955, the Jacksonville Rotary Club recognized the growth of the area across the river from downtown, and sponsored the formation of the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville. Twenty years later, as the population continued to spread, South Jax Rotary gave birth to the Rotary Club of Mandarin. And that club, in turn, begat the Rotary Club of Bartram Trail, which was officially chartered on Nov. 5, 2003. 

The effort to form this club was initiated by two Rotarians — Jim Register, then a member of the West Jacksonville club who represented the Rotary District, and Judy Jennings, a Mandarin Rotarian who would serve as the first club president for Bartram Trail. Jennings was a realtor, who worked out of the small office building on the corner of State Road 13 and Warren Circle, next to the current location of Broudy’s Liquors. During the formation period, when a club is called a “Provisional Rotary Club,” meetings were held in a conference room in her office. After reaching the Rotary minimum of 25 members, the club was granted a charter and celebrated that with a dinner at the San Jose Country Club. As is customary for those events, representatives of the District and many nearby clubs attended, and many of the area’s clubs presented gifts to the newest Rotary Club in District 6970. One of those gifts was the bell that is rung each week to open and close our meetings.

Since the small conference room would not hold all the members, the club started meeting at the clubhouse in what was then called the Champions Golf Club, now known as the Julington Creek Golf Club. While that was a great location geographically, a weekly breakfast meeting did not quite fit in with the operation of the golf course. So, in the spring of 2005, Rotarian Mike Sweeney, then the executive director of Westminster Woods, invited the club to move its meetings to the River Lounge in their community, where they have met ever since, except during Covid. 

There are no current members who were in that original charter group, but the first individual who was inducted after that, Michael Andreoni, remains a club member to this day. The club is stronger and more diverse than ever, with approximately 45 members who enjoy club meetings, social outings, service projects, and friendship with others who share their commitment to service. There’s every reason to expect that the next 20 years will be even better.

The Rotary Club of Bartram Trail – Julington Creek meets every Thursday morning, from 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m., at Westminster Woods on Julington Creek. Guests and prospective members are always welcome. There are more than 34,000 Rotary Clubs around the world, with more than 1.4 million Rotarians, making Rotary the oldest and most international service club in the world. 

Photo courtesy Rotary Club of Bartram Trail – Julington Creek

Rotary Club of Bartram Trail – Julington Creek President Jose Gavarrette addressing the club during one of the club’s weekly breakfast meetings.

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