Two of area’s oldest civic organizations use decades-old golf tournament to benefit others

Two of area’s oldest civic organizations use decades-old golf tournament to benefit others
Meninak Larry Cobb, Sam Kouvaris, Meninak President Bob Buehn, Rotarians Traci Jenks and Russell Grice, Meninak Andy Beh

On the cusp of celebrating its centennial anniversary next year, the Meninak Club of Jacksonville engaged in an annual decades-old friendly rivalry with the Rotary Club of Jacksonville – a charity golf tournament that harkens back to 1965, with roots going back 12 years earlier.

The Meninak / Rotary Charity Golf Tournament pits a golf team from the Meninak Club against a team from the Rotary Club. Traditionally held at Timuquana Country Club each fall, the tournament is preceded by a luncheon that allows the groups to socialize and includes a guest speaker with a focus on local sports. 

This year, prior to the 55th Annual Meninak / Rotary Charity Golf Tournament, the guest speaker at the Oct. 2 luncheon was Sam Kouvaris, who served as WJXT’s sports director for 37 years before parting company with Channel 4 in May. Although 1965 was the first year of the annual charity event, the groups have come together on the golf course since 1953. After this year’s tournament, the Rotary has a slight lead, having won 25 times against the Meninaks’ 23 wins. There have also been several ties and a few rainouts along the way. 

In 1982 Meninak Social Chair John Anderson and Rotarian John Baker decided to formalize the charity component of the competition by having the winning team select a charity to receive $1,000 from the losing club. Since that time, over $30,000 has been donated to local charities. The $1,000 wager has always been a fun aspect of the event bringing out competitive spirits, including after a tie in 2008, Meninak President Bunky Johnson challenged the Rotary to double the bet for the 2009 competition.

While the ultimate winners are the local charities that have benefited from the two clubs’ donations over the years, in close second are the Meninaks, Rotarians and their guests who have developed some great relationships over a fun and spirited competition on the course. This year the Rotary Club won the $1,000 wager between the rivals in charity and will put the funds into their foundation for future disbursement.   

The Meninak Club’s long history of charity began in 1930 when an organization called Foster Parent Plan received its first charity grant. Since then, 90 grants have been awarded, including the 2018 grant of $40,000 to the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, to 56 different nonprofits. Top recipients over the years have included the Girl Scouts (eight grants), Boy Scouts and Baptist Home for Children (five each) and Hope Haven (four grants).   

“The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus is headquartered in the beautiful Cathedral District of Downtown Jacksonville. However, our block has been experiencing some issues with blight in recent years,” said Darren Dailey, president and artistic director. “This grant will allow The Chorus to make some essential repairs and enhancements to our campus, improving the safety and well-being of our singers, parents, and staff, while also contributing to the revitalization effort of our city’s downtown neighborhoods.” 

Founded in 1919 as one of America’s first Kiwanis Clubs, the Meninak Club became the second club in Jacksonville affiliated with an organization national in scope; the first was the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, which formed in 1912.

Following a disagreement in the late 1940s with Kiwanis International regarding the desire to control its own destiny, the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club withdrew from the parent organization and its members re-formed as the Meninak Club of Jacksonville in 1951.

The name Meninak is said to have its origin in the combination of two Greek words meaning “true” and “honorable,” but the basic thought behind the selection was “Men in Action.”

From 29 business and civic leaders who joined together 99 years ago for the overall betterment of the spiritual, cultural and social attributes of Jacksonville, today there are 115 Meninak members, of which 14 are women. Despite the club having a woman serve as executive secretary since 1922, women were not invited to join as members until 1990. Glady Harris held the position for 50 years, retiring at age 69 in 1972. Catherine Hill has been executive director since 1984.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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