In 2008, after almost 20 years in Rotary International, William Ridgway Jr., a third-generation Barnegat Township resident, decided it was time that his hometown had its own club. By November 2010, he had assembled the 20 members needed to begin.
Now, at 26 members, the Rotary Club of Barnegat will hold a meet-and-greet 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 30 at Lefty's Tavern, 547 North Main St. to help the community learn more about the club and possibly attract some new members.
"Most people don't know Barnegat has a Rotary," said Ridgway, club president. "If someone is not interested in joining, at the very least they can learn about what we do."
The Rotary Club of Barnegat meets Wednesday nights at 5:45 p.m. at Lefty's Tavern. Ridgway said he was a long-time member of the Forked River Rotary and they had a hard time getting people from Barnegat to join so they decided their club would meet after work.
"People can still get home to spend time with their families, even for dinner because we just have appetizers," he said. "We've been able to get the youth involved with Rotary -- the 20-somethings. We probably have one of the younger clubs."
Rotary's members are business, professional and community leaders who volunteer to serve their communities, both locally and globally. They also form lasting friendships and network.
"As long as they are an upstanding citizen with good morals and show leadership qualities, they are welcome in Rotary," said Ridgway. "'Service Above Self' is Rotary's motto."
Barnegat Rotary is involved in a number of community service projects, according to Ridgway, including buying gifts for families at Christmastime, assembling meals for Thanksgiving, helping at the local food pantry and working with Barnegat High School's Interact Club, the youth arm of Rotary.
And, on Thursday, May 31 Ridgway will award his club's very first scholarship -- $1,000 to a Barnegat High School student. In addition, the club also is sponsoring a township Boy Scout for scout summer camp this year.
Ridgway said they also have had the opportunity to help on some of Rotary's international projects -- they provided shelter boxes for Haiti earthquake victims; worked on a project to give a village fresh drinking water; and helped in the fight to eradicate polio.
At the open house, three members will give testimonials on why they joined the group and what they get out of belonging: a man who joined Rotary after he retired; a man who has been in Rotary for more than 20 years and a young woman who was Toms River High School South's Interact Club president and moved to Barnegat a couple of years ago.
"For me, it's the three F's -- fun, fellowship and friendship," said Ridgway. "We do a lot of fellowship things -- bowling, ball games. Without that we're not going to be vibrant and the good we do will fall by the wayside."
There will be complimentary appetizers and beverages at the Meet and Greet. Prior to that, at 5:15 p.m., club members will unveil a Rotary sign hanging on Lefty's sign, saying the Rotary meets there every Wednesday at 5:45. For more information, call Ridgway at 609-698-2162 or visit their website.