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Come visit the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach, doing good things since 1926!

Fernandina Beach

Service Above Self

We meet Wednesdays at 12:00 PM
Story and Song Bookstore Bistro
(self-serve lunch begins 11:30)
1430 Park Avenue - Second Floor
Fernandina Beach, FL  32034
United States
District Site
Venue Map
Home Page Stories
William G. (Billy) Estep
Director, Emergency Management Nassau County, Florida
Director Estep is the Emergency Management Director for Nassau County, Florida, serving in this position since his retirement from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department in 2014.  Prior to his retirement and accepting his current position, he was appointed by then Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown to the position of Interim Emergency Management Director for Duval County. 
2018 marked Director Estep’s 41st year in public safety.  During his career, he has promoted up the ranks from firefighter, being asked to serve in many different special assignments, attaining multiple professional certifications, designations, and scholastic education.
Some of the high points of his career thus far: serving in the fire service for over 5 years on board the U.S. Navy AUTEC ASW testing facility located on Andros Island, Bahamas; managing a successful regulatory compliance consulting firm since 1988; being asked to respond to the devastating aftermath of hurricanes Andrew, Charlie, Wilma, and Katrina; during his career with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue he served for many years on the first  hazardous materials response team  in the nation, where later in response to 9/11 he was requested to be one of several help stand up a second Jacksonville haz mat team on September 12, 2001; in 2007 he was appointed Jacksonville Homeland Security Coordinator, where he and a team of public safety professionals further developed the implementation strategy and he managed  millions of dollars in federal domestic security grants funds; in 2010 he was request to serve as the Deputy Incident Commander representing the State of Florida in the Deepwater Horizons Oil-Spill Joint Command Post located in Mobile, Alabama; in 2015 he lead a 12 person incident management team to the South Carolina State EOC supporting their response to historic flooding resulting from  Hurricane Juaquin; more recently as Incident Commander of the State sponsored Northeast Florida Incident Management Team, this team deployed multiple times as a state asset in support of Hurricane Irma, Maria, and Nate, responding into the Florida Keys, the FEMA Joint Field Office in Orlando, and provided leadership in operational support of US citizens evacuating to the mainland U.S. from the territory of Puerto Rico.
Director Estep and his wife Stephanie reside on Amelia Island, Florida.  
Paula Sellek
Nassau County Emergency Management

Paula Sellek

NCEM Volunteer Coordinator 

Paula Sellek is responsible for public outreach with Nassau County Emergency Management. 

Topics will include: personal preparedness, how you can participate in ensuring the resiliency of our county, learning more about the role of emergency management, how to build your personal preparedness plan, how your organization can partner with Emergency Management, etc.

Ray Whitehead and his wife Frances
I just have to tell this great story in more detail:
After a year or so of trying to work in sales on commission for a consumable bath product company that had changed their direction in the market back in 1979, Ray was in what one might say the “right place, at the right time.
Ray was in Houston, TX and was waiting for an appointment he had with a retail showroom owner when he struck up a conversation with a distinguished looking gentleman from Germany, Mr. Juergen Otto who was also waiting. Ray related to Otto why he was there to see the buyer and Otto said he was there for the same reason.
Otto owned a German company and wanted to enter his product line to the US market place.  They had already built a showroom and warehouse but had not established any customers at that point in time. Ray was listening well and as all great salesmen do picked up on an opportunity sitting right there in front of him. Intrigued, Ray showed his interest and Otto invited him to visit their showroom location the following day.
Ray was essentially blown away when he entered the building where he was introduced to the most beautiful bath products he had ever seen.
Otto had explained they wanted to try and establish a partnership business with decorative hardware stores and wholesale plumbing facilities.  After further discussions, Otto asked Ray if he would want to see what he could do to assist them since his customers were already targeted in their direction.
Well, having been on straight commission for a while, Ray wasn’t exactly ready nor able to invest in their venture. However, for whatever reason, Mr. Otto and Ray had instant professional respect and trust with each other so Ray was offered what could be considered a signing bonus to go find them some business and Ray accepted the challenge.
Keep in mind that back in 1979, the only listings of any type of business were the yellow pages so Ray left a trail of ripped out pages throughout Texas (lol). It was quite a learning process because having never worked with mechanical products before, Ray was a little loss.
Now here’s the best part of this story; the first potential showroom he entered, Ray was asked if they sell “water closets?” As a professional salesman, one “Never Say’s No” when trying to make a sale and of course Ray answered yes! Excusing himself, Ray immediately went to a pay phone, called their office and ask if they had Water Closets. Ray was directed to page 30 in their catalog where he saw toilets and commodes! LOL… In Europe, toilets are called Water Closets.
So, after learning some new lingo, having found out they do have them was good, but oops, they don’t fit US market sizing. It was things like this that Ray and Otto realized they needed a lot of R & D to use their EU products in the USA.
At best, Ray could sell the products for new construction where they could preplan for the dimensions, but they needed the retail business as well. Solid brass faucets where a little easier to make work because of adapters from metric to US sizes so that segment of the business grew quickly.
Over the next 10 years working as their sales and marketing manager, Ray brought on independent agents across the country, many still representing the brands today. In 1990 the Germans brought in a new CEO who was a good man, but Ray and he knew they were not going to work well together.
The company had not been doing well in Florida, so the company released the agency and so having been in this relatively small industry and had made so many great contacts, Ray started Whitehead and Associates calling on these contacts to see if they would take their brands while Ray developed his own brand portfolio.
Ray’s contract with all brands included the state of Florida and the Caribbean. In 1996, Ray’s son William joined him after having worked for their largest distributor when he finished college. Ray expressed that he can never say enough about the last 22 wonderful years working with William Ray, day in and day out. William brought so much to the market place, but especially in the high-rise condo business where he has excelled.
Today, they have 3 more excellent outside agents in the Florida market place representing Whitehead & Associates.
No end to this story as Ray continues part time to be an advisor while he enjoys playing golf and living on this beautiful island with his wife Frances.
What a success story……thanks Ray!!!  And glad you have become a member of our great Fernandina Beach Rotary Club!!
Jonathan Levitt

With his craft talk this past Wednesday, we learned that Jonathan is a man of few words overall.  He doesn't like to talk about himself much and that's not a bad thing for sure.  However, he leaves us wanting to know more though...LOL


Jonathan was born and raised right here in Nassau County.  His  Father is still a local pastor at Lighthouse Tabernacle where Jonathan said he believes his father will never retire. 


He has 4 sisters, with Jonathan in the middle and 1 younger brother, a late comer. All of his siblings play music and they have fun as family band. Jonathan is the drummer by trade however, he is teaching himself how to play the bass and the piano.  He is accomplishing that with playing by ear, not reading music which is a very rare talent. 


After high school Jonathan decided he wanted to be a marine.  So he enlisted and went to boot camp.  However, after 2 short weeks, Jonathan began to have knee problems so with great reservation and disappointment, Jonathan was medically discharged for physical reasons.  Apparently, High School sports took a toll on him. He has had both knees replaced since. 


In his spare time, along with music and his love for Florida State, Jonathan likes to fish and ride 4-wheelers in the mud (be careful of those knees).

With a few twists and turns, Jonathan decided he would go into banking where he is presently a Commercial Loan Officer with Pineland Bank on Centre Street here in down town Fernandina beach.


When Jonathan was with First National Bank of Nassau County, he graduated from the Leadership Class of Nassau in 2011.  Jonathan is a Past Chairman of the Nassau County Chamber Of Commerce and continues to serve in other capacities there.  He continues to give back to his community and even though as Jonathan put it, he was "TOLD" he was to join our club by our President Elect Antoinette Richter, we are proud to have him as a Rotarian in our Fernandina Beach Rotary Club, giving back and helping out where needed with our fundraising events.

Great getting to know you Jonathan.




Jeff Zola

Jeff Zola was born and raised in Stockton, California, where he lived until November 2nd, 2017 when he and his wife Donna moved to Fernandina Beach, FL here on Amelia Island. Jeff’s working career was blue collar; auto body repair, locksmith, and locomotive mechanic (Journeyman Sheetmetal Worker) on the Western Pacific & Union Pacific Railroad (s), until he was furloughed in September 1985, and then resigned effective January 1st, 1986.


In January 1986, Jeff was recruited by New York Life where he started his new career in sales.  After 11 plus years with NYL, he spent the next 15 years as a Sales Manager and major Account Representative in the Copier Industry. To finish up his career, Jeff has spent the last 6 plus years as a National Salesman for Soundproof Doors and Windows and continues to work from home with retirement not too far off now.


Jeff and his wife Donna have been married since February 14th, 1995.  Now as a blended family, they have Donna’s daughter Christi, still in CA and Jeff’s son Christopher in Jacksonville, FL.


In the 70’s, Jeff was a member of the Bruce Martin Waterski School competitive team and was AWSA ranked #11 for the Men1 Jump and ranked #53 for Men1 Slalom back in 1977 in the Western Region.  Jeff did mention that there were not that many in the rank in file back


With now joining our Fernandina Beach Rotary Club, this is Jeff’s 18th continuous year as a Rotarian.


Dr. Page lead the club singing a patriotic song: "My Country Tis of Thee"

Recited our "Pledge of Allegiance"

Followed by singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" - Best song for us when our great pianist Bonnie Ridley is absent sad


Followed by an excellent invocation by Rotarian Joe Hastey



Secretary, John McAfee Report:

In attendance were 33 Club Members.  39 total attended the meeting.



Honorary Members - Larry Myers and Jim Hicks


Visiting Rotarians:  Rotarians Greg Holding from the Amelia Island Sunrise Club and Joe Gullo from Gatlinburg, TN


Visiting Guests of the Club: Keith Strausburg and Angelo Fanelli, guests of President Ron Heymann


50/50 Jack Pot:  @$320  - Jonathan Levitt had the drawn ticket and drew the ACE of clubs WINNER!!!!!!!!!!

Jonathan donated his $320 to our Rotary Scholarship Fund!!  THANK YOU JONATHAN LEVITT!


Boy Scouts: $24

Shelter Box: $49


Sergeant at Arms, Larry Melnick:

Rotarian Larry Melnick had a few very important announcements today:

After our meeting is over, PLEASE clean up after yourselves and throw your trash in the receptacle provided!  This isn't much to ask for!!!  Let's show some appreciation to those members like our Sergeant at Arms who stay after to clean up and put things away.  It's OK to help out after the meeting as well!!!

ALSO, when getting your lunch, PLEASE do not return for more until everyone has been served a lunch.  It's hard to project the amount of fresh food to prep without much waste, as we are not consistent with the number of members attending.  Once everyone has been served, then you may go back for more that is left over...….Oh....and 1 cookie too.....until all have been served! cool  Just remember, we are finally at a very nice place where our lunches are great and freshly "served" to us so let's appreciate what we've been wanting for a long time now.  THANK YOU smiley 





President-Elect, Antoinette Richter:       

No Report


John Howard, Community Services Report:

The Blood Mobile will be parked in the parking lot of Amelia Health Foods on September 26th.  We will need volunteers to help coordinate donors – and we need donors!  The Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach has a quota of 11 units of blood so please sign up if you can.

Dictionary Project:  Here are the schools that still need assistance!  It's a lot of fun....don't miss out, please see John to commit to one school in need!

Timing is up to each team. 

The books should arrive at the schools approximately the middle to end of September.  Wednesday, some of you went over to Synovus Bank and separated out the books by school. John will let us know when the books have been shipped to the schools and then "The Lead" volunteer of their school can call and arrange a date and time, notify his team and pass them out.

We are still in need of more volunteers with this project.  Please see John and sign will be much appreciated!  Frank Gagnier has taken on the two furthest schools, Bryceville and Hillard, and still needs a few more volunteers to help him out, however.....he will not buy you lunch! LOL


John Boylan, Director of Youth Services Report:

Nothing new to report.  John was to give a presentation at the Yulee Interact Club Wednesday afternoon I believe.  More about that next week.


Kris Meyer, Public Relations Report:

With articles to be written with pictures coming soon, Kris reminded those of us who are going to the schools for the Dictionary Project need to get a picture of with the Principle or teacher for a write up.  Please do not include the kids.


Barbara Gingher, Fundraising Report:

Taste of Amelia - We need help in securing some Restaurants to commit to participate.  If you know someone from one of the Restaurants downtown, please help us out and contact them about the changes to the event and perhaps they will join us.  Barbara reminded us of how important it is to where our Rotary pins/Name tags when in public as it does invoke conversation with curious people......EXPOSURE!  Thanks Barb!


Pam Crouser, Club Membership Report:

No Report

Nick Klein, Club Social Events Report:

No Report.....Nick on vacation


President Ron Heymann, Club Report:

We could use some help with making some contact with downtown restaurants. If you know anyone, see if they'd support us.  We have prepared some basic collateral for the proprietors and would like to "divide and conquer".  Initial discussions with proprietors has indicated many will support the new format of "Taste" so any help will be much appreciated.  Please see President Ron on which restaurants have been spoken with and have committed.




Debra Connelly, Club Foundation Report:


  • We plan to develop a grant request to Publix to cover costs incurred while purchasing dictionaries for elementary school third graders. 
  • Request that all club members bring copies of the Rotarian magazine when finished reading them so we can redistribute them to our Interact members.
  • We have finalized arrangements for Mary Ann Jacobs, CEO for the  Girl Scouts' Gateway Council, to provide a presentation to our club on November 7th.  We are receiving great community interest in attending our meeting that day in order to hear from Mary Ann on that date. 
  • Larry Myers is assisting with the development of the Girl Scout patch for "Amelia Island Discovery".  If anyone is interested in getting involved in our development effort, please contact Deb Connelly.
Also, we have learned that our Rotary scholar, Cara Tupps, supported through the combined efforts of Sunrise and our Club and  has been approved for a Rotary Foundation scholarship for the upcoming school year.  The total from the Foundation was just over $42,000 by Rotary International.  Cara is on her way to complete her Masters at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).  Twelve other clubs and District 7970 joined us in making this happen.    
Simas (Simon) Varnauskas
Oct 03, 2018
Our exchange student from Lithuania will introduce himself to the club
Rotary District Governor, Jeanette Loftus
Oct 10, 2018
Our District Governor will update the club on Rotary News
Janice Acrum
Oct 17, 2018
Council on Aging
Ron Sapp
Oct 24, 2018
The State of City and County Budgets
Tom Ray
Oct 31, 2018
"Rise Against Hunger"
Mary Ann Jacobs
Nov 07, 2018
Girl Scouts of America
Nov 14, 2018
Steve Stock, Jerry Hinson, Karin Clark
Nov 21, 2018
Member Craft Talks
Nov 28, 2018
UPDATES from Long Time Members
Becky Bray
Dec 05, 2018
Update on Nassau County Public Works
Ed Hubel
Dec 12, 2018
Update on the Baptist Medical Center Nassau
Thomas Sanger
Jan 16, 2019
Talk about his new historical novel "Without Warning"

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