District History

Rotary in District 696/6960

A History

This article may also be found on the RGHF Rotary Global History Site Rotary Global History Logo

In mid 2008, after years of compilation, PDG Paul Sanborn, 1974-1975 (R.C. Cape Coral) presented to our district the following information in hopes to document a history of our district. We ask and hope all will continue this effort by contributing to this effort so that each of us help preserve our history and record the major events that occur within our district.

For the origin of Rotary in the area that now comprises our southern history, we go back to 1912 when the Jacksonville Club was founded, just seven years after the start of Rotary. By that time 40 clubs had been chartered by what was then known as the International Association of Rotary Clubs, Jacksonville joining as Number 41.

New Orleans was the only other club then in existence in the ten southwestern states. When the southern division was established in 1912 there were only three clubs, the two just mentioned and Louisville, Kentucky. Club number 117 was the first club in what is now District 6950, formerly District 696. It was organized in Tampa in June 1914. Every club in this District can proudly trace its linage back to the Tampa Club.

Rotary grew rapidly in the south. In 1947, the District had grown to 75 clubs and was very unwieldy to administer. It was divided into three districts. Territory north of Ocala was District 167A, 167B was composed of Miami and the East Coast. Central and Southwest Florida were placed in 167C.

Rotary International again in 1957 adopted a new system for numbering the districts. In that year our District became District 696. The District continued to grow and it became necessary to divide Central Florida from Southwest Florida. This was done in1970, when there were 72 clubs in the District. Southwest Florida retained the 696 designation while Central Florida became District 695. After the redistricting there were 42 clubs in 696.

By 1991 the District had increased to 65 clubs, again a redistricting was necessary. with clubs in the Tampa area going to District 695. It was that year also that Rotary International changed District designations by adding a zero to the number, thus making our District 6960, with 44 clubs.

By 1998 the south was comprised of four zones. Florida had eight Districts and hundreds of clubs. What we know today as District 6960 is the result of 13 areas regrouping, each one resulting in smaller geographical areas. District 6960 in 1998 had 48 clubs.

To see how and where the growth of Rotary has been in our area, we must remember that Jacksonville was organized in 1912. At that time there were only 50 clubs in the world with 5000 members.

Tampa became the sponsor of the Lakeland Club in 1918. Lakeland in turn sponsored 6 clubs from 1922 through 1925. Among those were the Fort Myers Club in 1922. That club celebrated their 86th anniversary on April 21st, 2008. Other clubs, no longer in District 6960 were Avon Park, Sebring, Bartow, Haines City, Winter Haven and Auburndale.

The first club after Fort Myers, now in District 6960 was Sarasota, sponsored by St. Petersburg in 1926. In that same year the Tampa Club sponsored Bradenton. Punta Gorda was sponsored by Fort Myers in 1929. Naples was brought into Rotary in 1951, sponsored by Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach was sponsored by Fort Myers four years later in 1955. Englewood came into existence in 1959. Cape Coral was sponsored by the Fort Myers Beach Club in 1964. Marco Island, sponsored by Naples was chartered in 1966. There were 6 clubs chartered in 1973, Naples East ( now Naples Bay )North Fort Myers, Lakeland North( now in District 6950), Fort Myers East, Lehigh Acres and Sarasota Gulf Gate.

Bonita Springs, sponsored by Fort Myers Beach was admitted to Rotary on November 3,1978. The San Carlos-Estero Club, sponsored by Bonita Springs in 1986 , unfortunately was dissolved after a few years due to lack of membership. Bonita Springs also sponsored Bonita Springs Noon in 1992. Other clubs chartered in 1992 were; Murdock and Cape Coral North. In 1993 Fort Myers Gateway ( now Fort Myers Sunrise) joined Rotary International, as did Sarasota A.M. It was in 1994 that Harbor Heights/Peace River was chartered and Placida in 1998.

Two clubs, Estero and Lakewood Ranch were chartered in 2000. East Manatee ( originally named Sarasota Lakewood Ranch A.M. ) was chartered in2002. Sarasota Gateway joined Rotary International as a chartered club in 2005. There have been no other clubs chartered since that date and again unfortunately during the 2007-2008 Rotary year the District lost four Rotary Clubs for various reasons. Fort Myers Beach, Longboat Key, Osprey and Sarasota A.M. 

As of the start of the 2008-2009 year District 6960 had 52 Rotary Clubs with 2500 members.

This has been an overview of how Rotary has grown in Southwest Florida. For clubs not mentioned in this overview, please refer to Club Genealogy on the following page. 

Submitted By;

Paul W. Sanborn
PDG 1974-1975
District Historian

CHRONOLOGY OF CLUBS OF DISTRICT 6960 AS OF AUGUST 1, 2008
(If you would like to preserve a copy of your club’s charter on-line, just send an electronic copy of the
charter to the webmaster and we will publish it.
)

CLUB DATE
ADMITTED
ORIGINAL
DISTRICT
SPONSORED BY CHARTERING
GOVERNOR
Tampa June 1914 5 In Organization None
Lakeland  2-1-18 5 Tampa Malcom Jones
Fort Myers 4-1-22 8  Lakeland John Turner
Avon Park 8-22-24  39 Lakeland Will Lanier
Sebring 9-8-24  39 Lakeland Will Lanier
Bartow 12-9-24  39 Lakeland Will Lanier
Haines City 5-12-25  39 Lakeland Will Lanier
Winter Haven 6-1-25  39 Lakeland Will Lanier
Auburndale 12-24-25  39 Lakeland John B. Orr
Lake Wales 3-4-26 39 Tampa John B.Orr
Sarasota 3-8-26 39 St. Petersburg John B.Orr
Bradenton 6-9-26 39 Tampa John B.Orr
Frostproof 11-10-27 39 Avon Park Bert Arnold
Punta Gorda 4-10-29 39 Fort Myers Will Lanier
Arcadia 5-10-46 167 Fort Myers  Fred Bultman
Palmetto 12-1-47 167C Bradenton Paul Stine
Venice-Nokomis 12-26-47 167C Sarasota Paul Stine
Naples 11-26-51 244 Fort Myers Mallory Roberts
Fort Myers Beach 4-28-55 244 Fort Myers Chesley Perry
South Manatee 11-23-55 244 Bradenton Arthur Kitchen
Clewiston 6-26-56 243  Belle Glade William R. Robins
Sarasota Bay 11-13-58 696 Sarasota Richard Cuming
Englewood 5-28-59 696 Venice-Nokomis Richard Cuming
Sarasota Keys 5-12-60 696 Sarasota Everett Sumner
Fort Meade  6-10-60 696 Bartow Everett Sumner
Port Charlotte 2-10-61 696 Englewood  Stephen Grimes
Immokalee 6-13-62 696 Naples Robert Baynard
Cape Coral 5-21-64 696 Fort Myers Beach Lester Ginkel
Marco Island 5-28-66 696 Naples James Franklin, Jr.
Anna Maria Island 12-19-66 696 Bradenton John Neuner
Lakeland South 10-17-68 696 Lakeland Les Anderson Jr.
Fort Myers South 12-30-68 696 Fort Myers Les Anderson Jr.
Naples North 6-13-69 696 Naples Les Anderson Jr.
Cypress Gardens 6-20-70 696 Winter Haven Les Anderson Jr.
Lake Placid 3-8-71 695 Sebring Mark Hollis
Winter Haven North 5-13-72 595 Winter Haven Bob Neel
Naples East 3-10-73 696 Naples & Naples North Joe Selden Jr.
North Fort Myers 6-14-73 696 Cape Coral Joe Selden Jr.
Lakeland North 6-17-73 696  Lakeland K. R. Popham
Fort Myers East 6-25-73 696  Fort Myers Joe Selden Jr.
Lehigh Acres 6-30-73 696 Fort Myers & Cape Coral Joe Selden Jr.
Sarasota Gulf Gate 12-11-73 696 Sarasota Moody Rinehart
South Venice 9-27-76 696 Venice-Nokomis Woody Register
Bonita Springs 11-3-79 696 Ft. Myers Beach Joe Pendleton
Sanibel-Captiva 3-18-80 696 Ft. Myers Beach Joe Pendleton
Charlotte Harbor 4-4-80 696 Punta Gorda Joe Pendleton
Naples Gulfshore 1-28-81 696 Naples W.O. Gillenwaters
Sarasota Sunrise 3-30-81 696 Sarasota & Sarasota Bay &
Sarasota Gulf Gate & Sarasota Keys
W.O. Gillenwaters
West Bradenton 5-23-81 696 Bradenton W.O. Gillenwaters
Naples-Pelican Bay 6-11-81 696 Naples North W.O. Gillenwaters
Lake Wales A.M. 3-4-82 696 Lake Wales Roy Asbury
Lakeland Christina 6-30-82 696 Lakeland South Roy Asbury
Naples Sunset 4-26-83 696 Naples, Naples North Bill Hendry
Marco Sunrise 6-21-83 696 Marco Island Bill Hendry
Naples Golden Gate 3-5-84 696 Naples & Naples North Welch Whitesell
Sebring Sunrise 4-5-84 696 Sebring Welch Whitesell
Labelle 4-10-84 696 Fort Myers East Welch Whitesell
Englewood Lemon Bay 3-4-85 696 Englewood John Impertore
Cape Coral Goldcoast 8-6-85 696 Cape Coral Neal Patterson
San Carlos- Estero 2-19-86 696 Bonita Springs Neal Patterson
Lake Placid Noon 2-21-86 696 Lake Placid Neal Patterson
Avon Park Breakfast 5-17-87 696 Avon Park Robert Koo
Northport 5-27-87 696 Englewood Robert Koo
Sarasota Sunset 4-29-88 696 Sarasota Sunrise George Cobb II
Cape Coral North 10-21-92 6960 Cape Coral Bernard Soep
Murdock 1-28-92 6960 Port Charlotte Desmond Farrell
Bonita Springs Noon  6-30-92 6960 Bonita Springs Desmond Farrell
Ft. Myers Gateway 9-12-93 6960 Ft. Myers East Henry Dawson
Sarasota A.M. 4-13-94 6960 Sarasota Sunrise Henry Dawson
Harbor Heights/Peace River 3-3-98 6960 Charlotte Harbor Pete Cypher
Placida 6-4-98 6960 Englewood Pete Cypher
Lakewood Ranch 4-20-01 6960 Sarasota Bay Gary Wilson
Estero 5-1-01 6960 Bonita Springs Noon Gary Wilson
North Port Central 1-4-02 6960 North Port  Dick Rehmeyer
East Manatee 6-15-02 6960 Sarasota Sunrise  Dick Rehmeyer
Sarasota Gateway 6-7-05 6960 Extension per R.I. Jerry Hearn

NOTE: The following named clubs have changed club names since originally chartered:

Fort Myers Gateway to Fort Myers Sunrise; Marco Island to Marco Island Noontime; Naples East to Naples Bay; Naples Golden Gate to Naples Collier, South Venice to Venice Sunrise, Sarasota Lakewood Ranch AM to East Manatee.

HISTORY OF CLUBS WHO HAVE TERMINATED

CLUB                                       DATE TERMINATED

Fort Myers Beach
Longboat Key
Sarasota A.M.
Osprey
San Carlos-Estero