June 9, 2011

Are there different types of Optimist Clubs?

Service clubs came into being as a way to allow business and professional men opportunities for business, social and humanitarian interaction, and to meet a specific need that they saw in the area at the time they were organized.

E.L. Monser was a businessman in Buffalo, NY,1911
The first Optimist Club was started to address the problem of delinquent boys who were vandalizing shop owners in Buffalo, New York.  News of the business owners proactive involvement in their community spread across the country, and other groups started-up as well. As they communicated their activities with one another, they built on the mission of sharing a positive outlook; and in 1919, individuals representing 11 autonomous Optimist Clubs came together to form what we now know as Optimist International.

For many years, they offered a cookie-cutter model of community involvement and service. Men would come together for a meal and listen to a guest speaker about a topic of interest or need in their community. The group would discuss the issue, perhaps create a committee to address the issue, and they would act as they saw fit to "fix" the need. In the background, the spouses of these men would organize their own events including social activities for the group. It was a civic-social club that made sense for many, many years.

In fact, ladies were not invited to become full-fledged members of service clubs until 1987 and it took a Supreme Court order to make it happen. The clubs were on their way to becoming more diverse. So the question, are there different types of Optimist Clubs can be answered with a resounding, "Yes!"

There are still traditional Optimist Clubs in the organization, made up of men and women, following the model above. However, more and more clubs are formed around a single mission, often sports. Football, baseball and soccer Optimist Clubs are widespread.
Optimist Club of Plainfield, Indiana
Optimist Club of Boise, Idaho
Optimist Club of Marco Island, Florida 
Optimist Club of Arlington, Texas

Some Optimist Clubs choose to meet weekly, others monthly, and with the growth and ease of social networking, some  never meet in person except to perform projects.
Optimist Club of Issaquah, Washington

Some Optimist Clubs are made up of a single gender, but more often than not, they are coed. And there are some Optimist Clubs built at universities, made up of college-age students, faculty and administrators.
Optimist Club at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Optimist Club of the University of California-Santa Barbara

The list goes on-and-on. Because Optimist Clubs are autonomous, there are endless possibilities for joining or forming an Optimist Club that does projects that most interest you. All Optimist Clubs are encouraged to conduct programs coordinated by Optimist International, programs that have been identified to have a universal need. However, clubs are equally encouraged to be innovative and perform projects that are unique to their community and report their activities to Optimist International via a community project book.

The opportunities for service in your community as an Optimist Club, under the Optimist International umbrella is as vast as your imagination. Sound off - tell us what you need, and let us know how we can help you get started by leaving a comment here.

Please click here to join an existing Optimist Club or to start a new Optimist Club in your community. 
Picture credit: Optimist International
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