The East Rockingham Men’s Club is celebrating 40 years of serving the community, and is looking forward to continuing the tradition of fellowship and generosity for years to come.
Founded in 1972, the group of men nominated Bill Martin, Bill Dennis, R.B. Barber and Fred Gibson to serve as the club’s first officers.
“We started the club as a way to create a fire department in the community,” said Bill Dennis, who is possibly the only surviving founding member of the club and the fire department that was created under their leadership.
“Others had tried and failed to create a fire department in East Rockingham, and we realized that what was missing from their efforts was teamwork — and the East Rockingham Men’s Club was born from that,” said Dennis.
Bill Dennis, Bill Martin, R.B. Barber, Buddy Idol and Benson Holiday were appointed to a committee to oversee this project.
The group pulled together, and started a door-to-door petition in the area to be served by a new fire department.
“We had a proposed fire district drawn up and approved,” said Dennis. “The petition was for the creation of a fire tax of 10 cents per $100 valuation.”
One selling point for the new tax was that most people would save money on insurance, if a fire department was created in their district. The new tax regulation gained enough support to pass but one group, from what is now the Briarwood area, opposed it and took the Men’s Club to court.
“That turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” said Dennis. “We were tied up in court for a couple of years — but when it was all over we had collected enough taxes to give us an even better starting point. We had to borrow less money to get the fire department up and running.”
The East Rockingham Fire Department was finally created, and it was dedicated March 13, 1976 — a dream Dennis said he had envisioned since childhood.
Under the leadership of the Men’s Club, East Rockingham Park was also created, and opened to the public in 1980. Herbert Diggs, Buddy Idol, R.B. Barber, Bill Martin and Benson Holiday were appointed to spearhead that project.
“Our motto has always been ‘working for a better community,’ and East Rockingham has always held a special place in my heart so it has meant a lot to me to be a part of this group,” said Dennis.
In addition to creating and supporting these two organizations that are still going strong today, the Men’s Club also donates to things like: school supplies to Rohanen Middle School; RSHS cheerleaders; playground equipment; school uniforms to “less fortunate children;” sponsorship of five families at Christmas and Thanksgiving; Christmas parties for “less fortunate children;” aided with the Charles Brownley statue at RSHS; annual sponsorship of a Rockingham baseball team; March of Dimes; Hospice; Make a Wish; aided with the purchase of a therma heat imager helmet for the Hamlet Fire Department; local senior citizen programs; the Richmond County Beautification Committee; scholarships; and the Richmond County Prescription Organization.
Current elected club leaders are: Darrell Allen, Eric Snipes, Eddie Byrne, Mike Burns, Bill Dennis, Robert Cain, Doug Benoist, and Rev. Bud Jacobs.
“You don’t have to live in East Rockingham to be a member of the club,” said Eddie Byrne, secretary and treasurer. “We’re always looking for new members, and are currently planning our next fundraiser — a golf tournament in September.”
The club meets the second Monday of each month at the East Rockingham Fire Department at 7 p.m.
More information about the club, along with contact numbers, visit the club’s website at www.eastrockinghammensclub.com.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.