For some, it’s just a place to relax for the day, but for thousands of Long Islanders, Jones Beach State Park holds a special place in their hearts.
The Jones Beach Club, a Facebook group that has grown to more than 25,000 members strong, has been bringing people together since its creation five years ago. Members include people from all over the island, with many residing in Wantagh, Seaford, Bellmore, Merrick and Freeport.
Freeport resident Philip Jimenez, a moderator of the group, said people from all over the country join to share their memories of the beach.
“The group keeps on growing,” Jimenez said. “It hasn’t staggered. Every year, there’s new people, and it’s good seeing that because we keep hearing new stories.”
The club is a social group where members interact by sharing memories of the famed Long Island destination. Jimenez said many members no longer live in the community but will reminisce about growing up near Jones Beach. Throughout the thousands of posts on the page, members will discuss the history of the beach and share old photos and memorabilia, such as a decades-old match cover with the beach logo on it.
For Jimenez, sharing these stories has helped build connections with the community.
“We get to know each other through talking, friendships and smiles,” Jimenez said of the club’s members. “It gets us away from daily life.”
In addition to posting, members would meet up at Jones Beach to watch the sunset. According to Jimenez, an average of 10 members each day could be found by the Field 10 bait and tackle shop conversing with other members and waiting for the sun to go down.
Jimenez and his wife, Carolyn, both 74, have helped grow the club to where it is now. State Sen. Steve Rhoads honored the couple with a citation on Oct. 8, thanking them for spreading happiness and fostering a community at Jones Beach. Both said they were happy with the recognition but said the club has always been a group effort.
“I think it’s really a tribute to the whole group,” Carolyn Jimenez said of the recognition.
The couple’s love of Jones Beach started decades before joining the Facebook group. They met 57 years ago by the Jones Beach tower, and the two have always shared a love for exotic places. Philip Jimenez said they have been fortunate enough to travel the world and visit different beaches, such as in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Miami, Cancun, Ireland, Croatia, Greece and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. They said they want to visit the beaches along Italy’s Eastern Coast next year.
Despite traveling to all these picturesque locations, Philip Jimenez said none compared to Jones Beach. For him, remaining distant from tall buildings, residential areas and bustling boardwalks has made Jones Beach a cozy destination to relax and enjoy the waves and warm weather.
“Carolyn and I both have this love of Jones Beach,” he said. “We’ve always been coming here.”
Michael Defina, a Florida resident who works as a Jones Beach lifeguard during the summer, founded the Jones Beach Club, but the Jimenezes have worked to build the group into a large, welcoming community. They recently started a meet-and-greet at Field 10, where members participate in a free raffle that includes a variety of items donated by other members. The meet-and-greet takes place four times over the summer, helping to build relationships with the club.
“People love coming here, and they love getting together,” Philip Jimenez said.
The club has been growing in numbers through word of mouth. When people apply to join the group, Philip Jiminez will look through their profiles before accepting them. He added that he notices many applicants are already friends with one another.
The Jimenezes said they hope to see the club continue to build connections based on the shared love of Jones Beach. As the club’s motto states: “Come for the sunset, stay for the people.”
“I hope people gather and make names on Facebook become a reality,” Philip said of the club members. “That we see each other, shake hands and hug each other.”