Jennfier Johanson is rallying local Brits with her Brandon British Club (BBC), which has been meeting since 2011.
Jennifer Johanson’s life experience has taken her a long way from the quiet rectory in rural England where she grew up in the 70s and 80s.
She tried a career in catering, dabbled in real estate, worked two years as the private secretary for Member of Parliament Nick Harvey (now Minister of State for the Armed Forces), spent a year literally circumnavigating the globe and lived on the Channel Island of Guernsey.
In 2001, she married United States Air Force member Erik Johanson. The couple lived at Andrews AFB in Maryland for two years before enjoying a seven-year tour in Germany.
A 2010 assignment to MacDill AFB led the Johansons to their Bloomingdale home and the family quickly put down community roots. “The last thing on my mind,” Johanson said, “was launching a new social club.”
Then the death of Johanson’s father in late 2010 made the British ex-patriot feel far from home. “I missed my connections and my family,” she said.
She picked up a copy of the Union Jack newspaper and quizzed European Gourmet owner Martin Bebbington about local clubs.
Johanson discovered that the Brandon area is rich with British heritage, but the closest social clubs are in Tampa and Sarasota.
“So I organized the Brandon British Club (BBC) in the spring of 2011,” she said. “Martin Bebbington was very helpful with publicity.”
The BBC started meeting at the Fox and Hounds, moved to O ’Brien’s Irish Pub, and now frequents a variety of locations via monthly British-themed gatherings, informal football (soccer) matches and celebrations designed to highlight uniquely British events.
“Now we’re going down the route with the IRS to get our 501 C-7 social club nonprofit status,” Johanson said, “so we can raise funds.”
With a current database of 87 members, interest in the BBC has grown beyond Johanson’s initial imagination, evidently tapping a rich vein of cultural interest.
Recently, the BBC gathered at Channing Park’s Clubhouse to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
“We recreated a street-party atmosphere from 1952,” Johanson said. “And live-streamed the celebrations from London.”
Looking ahead the club plans a Guy Fawkes Day gathering Monday, November 5, and the First Annual British Club Cruise (also in November).
Johanson said her family quickly developed a sense of belonging in the community. This isn’t surprising considering her commitment to the BBC, the Emergency Response Team, the Christian Church, Cimino Elementary School and dancing with the New World Celts.
“If you’re going to make a home a home then you have to get involved,” Johanson said.
For more information on the Brandon British Club, contact Johanson at email@example.com or find the BBC on Facebook.