June 6, 2006 > Attitude is everything
Attitude is everything
by Lance Dwyer
When an organization aims to counter the social dilemmas of their community, one philosophy seems to fit best: optimism.
Thus, from a time when the introduction of industrialization and urbanization brought with it increased crime and poverty, an organization most appropriately named "Optimist Club of Buffalo" was born in 1911. Its stated purpose: "Develop optimism as a way of life."
In 1916, an independent club was founded in Indianapolis, Ind. with other cities soon following suit. All 11 chapters met in Louisville, Ky. in 1919 and agreed to be known as "Optimist International." Since then more than 3,000 clubs throughout the world have been chartered.
Optimists experienced their greatest degree of growth in the 1960s when membership increased exponentially. They also established a Stay-in-School program and expanded their involvement to high schools with their Octagon clubs.
Jim Reese, president of Newark's Optimist Club, said he became involved in the organization four years ago after witnessing its members' devotion to their community.
"I saw that the people are very dedicated and committed and I liked that about the club," said Reese. "These are people who don't expect a 'thanks.' They do it because they want to help people."
Reese had been heavily involved in service work for several years before but was attracted to the Optimists' focus on youth. The Club sponsors several events catering to youngsters both locally and nationally.
In addition to their Christmas party for Schilling Elementary School, the Newark club also raises funds to benefit D.A.R.E. (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) and children's cancer research. Plans are already underway for an ice cream social fundraiser in August to benefit pediatric cancer research.
Other beneficiaries of the Optimists' efforts are the Newark Memorial High School's drama department and Mervyn's back-to-school shopping program.
"Our motto is to be a friend of the youth, and that's what we do--provide a range of programs and assistance to organizations and schools that help youth," said Reese.
"It's great that I've been able to give something back. I feel very fortunate to have the education and the access to the opportunities that I had and I feel like I should give something back as a result of that."
The Optimist Club funds an annual scholarship program. Each year, they award six $1,000 college scholarships to high school grads.
For information regarding the scholarship program or on joining the Newark Optimist Club send email inquires to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their website at www.pacificcentraldistrict.org/newark.html.
Meetings are every Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. at International House of Pancakes, 5687 Jarvis Ave., Newark.