Our organization is dedicated to intellectual, spiritual, educational, and emotional fellowship of members in The Villages and surrounding communities of Central Florida. Our members are mostly retired professionals of various backgrounds who have relocated here from all over the country.
An informal non-profit club that will strengthen and embrace the brotherhood of members in The Villages, FL and surrounding communities.
To foster fellowship among our members and to build mentor relationships that empower students from low-income communities to graduate high school and to achieve their ambitions. Graduating students who meet certain criteria can apply to our Scholarship Program.
Our History - The Beginning
On January 5, 2005, a group of African American men came together at the Cattle Baron Restaurant at Katie Belle’s in The Villages, Florida. Lawrence Parker invited a few men to meet and greet a friend visiting him. At the gathering, each man stood and stated where he was from and how long he lived in The Villages. During the introductions, many of the long-time residents realized they were meeting fellow African American Villagers for the first time. Feeling the warm glow of the gathering, Lawrence’s friend said, “You men look impressive. Why not become The Sophisticated Gents?”
Lawrence suggested the group meet again, and enlisted Arthur Boyd, Lamont Harris, and Nelson Bickley to call other friends and acquaintances in The Villages to gather for an initial meeting. At this meeting, the men attending agreed to form the Sophisticated Gents (hereafter referred to as the “Gents”) and agreed to meet on a monthly basis going forward. While Nelson and Lawrence are often referred to as the “Founders” of the Gents, Arthur and Lamont were instrumental in the Gents early development. In fact, the aforementioned men became the de facto “Board” for the fledgling organization, assuming duties as follows:
Ø Nelson Bickley, President
Ø Lawrence Parker, Vice-President
Ø Arthur Boyd, Secretary
Ø Lamont Harris, Treasurer
The Gents welcomed men living in and around The Villages. They decided they wanted to be more than just a social gathering to meet and have dinner. They needed GOALS, and adopted Companionship, Intellectual discourse, and where possible to Do Good for their community. Because the group was small, they met at local restaurants and at some of The Villages’ Country Clubs. Monthly meetings included a variety of invited guest speakers to discuss such topics as men’s health issues, local politics, and estate planning. Word began to spread about the Gents, and their numbers grew to over 20 men.
As we engaged in lively discussions with our guest speakers – at times disturbing other restaurant customers - it became evident that we needed a different meeting venue. We began the search for a venue that offered privacy and that would accommodate our growing membership. After searching far and wide, Nelson (Bickley) met with the owner of the Golden Corral on County Road 466 in The Villages. In 2007, the Gents began meeting in the Golden Corral’s private room on the first Wednesday of the month.
As of summer 2019, the Gents group is a multicultural, 501c3 non-profit organization with over 130 members. We partner with another local non-profit to provide scholarships to graduating high-schoolers in the area. Additionally, our members volunteer to support a variety of programs within the community to include student mentoring, county road cleanup, election poll monitoring, and other events helping local schools and civic organizations. And we still meet at the Golden Corral on the first Wednesday of each month!
Finally, thank you for visiting our website. Please spend some time perusing the other areas of the site. Check out our HOME page, which contains our latest blog posts, a list of our upcoming events, and links to other areas of our site. Or, if you’re so inclined, you may sign-up to become a Gent by clicking the following LINK. While you’re here, please consider a DONATION to our Scholarship Fund. Your donation is tax-deductible.