December 31, 2013

Bounce Fever in London, Kentucky

I often see Optimist Club projects that I want to "do at home." In other words, I want to take the idea to my Optimist Club and ask for volunteer members to be as excited about it as me. When we're all excited about something, we make it happen.

Of course, often times when I see a project, especially around the holidays - take the Oswego Optimist Club Pumpkin Races for example, we have to wait a whole year to make it happen. However, the project that I am highlighting today, playfully called Bounce Fever, can be done at any time of year. But putting it on when its cold outside, well that just makes it more fun. Kids love bounce houses and what could be better than a whole gymnasium full of them with unlimited access for a full day? 

Thanks to the London Laurel Optimist Club in Kentucky for the inspiration. I see Bounce Fever coming to a gym in Idaho very soon.

December 29, 2013

Looking forward

purpose of life experience optimism

As we look forward to a new year, this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt seemed to embody the true meaning of being an optimist. She said, "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer richer experience."

I hope to do so and I hope you do the same. Cheers to 2014.

December 25, 2013

The joy of giving

As an Optimist Club member, I've discovered the satisfaction that comes when one gives service to others. This happens all through the year, not only at Christmas. But it's true, as Charles Schulz said, "Christmas is doing a little extra for someone."

I hope you find that joy today. Merry Christmas.

December 22, 2013

Meanwhile, Christmas tree sales in Billings, MT are strong

Far away, in Billings, Montana, the Magic City Optimist Club Christmas tree lot was faring well. They also said that tree sales were up this year and are thankful for how the project will benefit many in the community including various youth projects like the YMCA After School Youth Rally Room the Special Children's Camp and the Boys and Girls Club, among others.

KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

December 21, 2013

Christmas Tree lots wrap up for the season

As Christmas Day approaches, nothing feels better to an Optimist Club member working at a fundraising tree lot than this post from the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna.

Christmas trees are often the biggest fundraiser that an Optimist Club pursues and the opportunity to have the week off before Christmas due to fast and swift sales is a blessing for the club and its families.

But it also signifies something else; the economy is getting better. With more money circulating, families can invest in small pleasures and give back to the community at the same time. Buying a Christmas tree from a fundraising tree lot serves that purpose. Congratulations to all!

December 20, 2013

Praise for all contributors

This picture caught my eye today.

It was published at with a descriptive paragraph, "Optimist provides holiday food baskets ... The Jenks Optimist Club, partnered with the Jenks Police Department, area churches, the Jenks Chamber of Commerce and the Jenks Alternative Center, donated holiday food baskets to Jenks West Elementary and the Jenks Alternative Center."

What crossed my mind when reading the paragraph was wow, those three ladies are sure doing the work for a lot of people. And then I thought how easy it would be to dismiss the great number of partnerships that help service clubs thrive in their communities. It takes collaboration to prevent needs and people from falling through the cracks during the holidays and even more so throughout the year.

Next time your Optimist Club is fortunate to be photographed for the paper, try to be aware that the picture gives a good representation of the story because we know, it's a lot easier to read the headline, look at the picture and move on. As an Optimist Club, or any service club, be sure that your partners receive praise for their contributions at the same time that you receive praise for your coordination of an activity. We're all in this together!

December 19, 2013

The best time to celebrate

Christmas day is less than one week away. You may have noticed this particular phenomenon  - every year, beginning in November and running through the end of the year, many people become filled with gratitude, and overcome with joy.  It's no doubt the holiday season that brings this sense of celebration to life. It makes going to work more interesting and coming home even more fulfilling. That sense of celebration fills us with anticipation, enthusiasm and hope. 

I have an idea. What if we promised ourselves to share this sense of joy throughout the year? What if we celebrated every day as if it were a special day? We would certainly experience optimism again and again. What a wonderful life it would be. 

December 18, 2013

Foster Children treated to Christmas Party

bixby optimistThe Optimist Club of Bixby, Oklahoma enjoyed caroling at its club Christmas party and then two days later, the members shared their special brand of joy with others when they hosted the Foster Children Christmas Party. This annual event assists families by providing gifts for foster children.

While there, the children also got to talk to Santa and they enjoyed pizza, face painting, and yes, Christmas carols. Miss Bixby and her court were also in attendance and they took turns reading Christmas stories to the group.

The Foster Children Christmas Party has been a community tradition for 20 years. To support the program, the Optimist Club receives a list of area foster children from the Department of Human Services. They then reach out to the families to see if they want to participate in the event. Those that participate provide a wish list to the Optimist Club and Santa's Helpers, aka Optimist Club members go to work to find the items on the lists.

According to a club spokesperson, the kids will often ask for warm clothing and bedding, but the club also makes sure to make the gifts fun. After all, making kids smile, especially at Christmas, is what the Optimist Club strives to do best.

Photo contributed by the Bixby Optimist Club. 

December 15, 2013

Working together for Christmas

Optimist Clubs frequently serve as a catalyst or conduit for others give more to their community. As a catalyst, the club might spark an interest in a cause and as a conduit, the club enables giving of gifts, money, or service.

During the holiday season, the Optimist Club of Barbados South is doing both. It recently accepted gifts from the Sport for Life Program. The gifts will be given to children and families with the Christmas Hamper project that targets 30 families this year through the Child Care Board, plus an additional 10 families in the community.

According to Tricia Ford with the Sport for Life Program, a program that inspires children in all areas of their life through sports, the group is focusing on service. She was proud to report that all 43 of the participants donated gifts to the cause.

Optimist Club president Margaret Chapman-Farley received the gifts and was thankful to the group for helping the Optimist Club provide more services for children.

Photo credit: The Barbados Advocate

December 13, 2013

Caroling at the Bixby Optimist Club

Optimist Clubs support children's programs throughout the year and it is always delightful when students come to Optimist Club meetings to say thank you. Sometimes those remarkable young people visit and perform. That happens frequently during the holiday season and that's what's happening here.

Recently, the North Intermediate Choir visited the Optimist Club of Bixby, Oklahoma and shared songs of Christmas cheer. I hope you enjoy.


December 12, 2013

That will be a quarter, sir

Optimist Clubs and Districts will generally appoint one member to serve as Sergeant at Arms. This position is a social role that goes to work anytime a group of Optimist Club members gather. Its purpose is to increase fellowship by poking innocent fun at members for innocent infractions. Its goal is to collect fines in the name of fun.  Examples of times that a fine that might be levied include:
  • Being late to the Optimist Club meeting
  • Talking out of turn 
  • Not wearing your Optimist Club pin when your picture is in the paper
  • Telling a bad joke
  • Forgetting to shake hands with the other members when you arrive
  • Being the first person to receive their meal 
  • Getting a haircut 
  • Dressing too casual or too formal for the average Optimist Club meeting 
  • Wearing a cap or other apparel from a rival sports team
Or anything that will make others, and the person being fined, giggle. Such infractions will typically cost the miscreant a quarter; however, a very grievous infraction might call for a silent fine indicating that the person being charged is expected to put in a dollar.

Again, it's all done in fun and never is anyone meant to feel that they are being punished. Instead, they should know that the fun being shared with them builds comaraderie in the group and the fines are being donated to a worthy cause.

Of course, the Optimist Club members pick the cause each year, and at twenty-five cents a charge, it takes a while to accumulate enough to donate.

In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the Riverside Optimist Club just made their fine pot donation, just in time for Christmas. They gave over $100 to Santa's Sporting Christmas fund, a project that raises money for the Salvation Army's Christmas hamper program.

This is just one creative way that Optimist Clubs encourage giving and fellowship.

December 10, 2013

There was an optimistic shopping spree in Yuma

Optimist Clubs throughout North America have shopping trips on their lists of things-to-do before Christmas and many of them are taking children right along with them for the experience.

In Yuma, Arizona, Optimist Club members were up early on Saturday, December 7, for the annual holiday shopping spree. Children are take to the local J.C. Penney where they have $125 to spend on warm clothes for the season. They usually take about 30 kids each year, and this year, many individuals in the community donated $125 so that they could take one more.

Watch the video here.

December 8, 2013

Snowing on Santa's House

It's snowing on Santa's House in Belleville, Illinois. According to the children and the Optimist Club, it's a beautiful sight. I agree.

December 7, 2013

Optimists, cops and kids

Here is a great picture from the Fort Smallwood Optimist Club in Pasadena, Maryland. The club held its annual Shop with a Cop program today and the officers and their shopping-buddies are about to enjoy lunch at the Outback Steakhouse.

Shop with a Cop Optimist Club

The FortSmallwood Optimist Club teams up with the Cherry Hill Optimist Club and Annapolis Optimist Club for this activity. By including the police officers, the children are able to meet law enforcement officials at a non-threatening activity and it helps them build relationships and trust for instances when they might connect in the future. 

According to a club member, it's a good feeling to see the smiles and excitement on these less fortunate children!

And it's wonderful to see Optimist Clubs making a difference, one project at a time. 

Thanks to the Fort Smallwood Optimist Club for the picture.

December 5, 2013

Festival of Trees at the Optimist Youth Home

Christmas trees are an important part of the holiday season and many Optimist Clubs use them as fundraisers for the projects that they will do throughout the year. In Southern California, Optimist Clubs are using Christmas trees to help raise funds for another cause.

According to Janet Bennett Bryant, The Van Nuys' Airport Optimist Club, among others decorated Christmas trees for the Festival of Trees at the Optimist Youth Home. The Festival of Trees took place on December 1, 2013 and marks the 61st consecutive year that Optimist Clubs have come together for this fundraising activity. The Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services, a charitable organization that provides services to more than 500 at-risk youths and their families every day, has been supported by Optimist Clubs since 1920.

Shown here are the designers and submission from the Van Nuys' Airport Optimist Club. The ornaments on their tree were all handmade. Thanks to Janet Bennett Bryant for the photo and story.

December 1, 2013

Diaper drive helps families help themselves at Christmas

This just in from the Pueblo Optimist Club, serving the Pueblo, Colorado community:
"It is time again for the diaper drive. Last year the Optimists delivered a whopping 8,728 diapers to Joe Mahoney for the Pueblo Catholic Charities. Summit Brick collected 3,120 and challenged other businesses. ENT Credit Unions, Pueblo Wintronics, many local businesses, anonymous donors, Optimist's friends, family and coworkers all dug deep to make this event a grand success.

As was done last year, all items will be dispersed thru Pueblo Catholic Charities - please contact Shannon to arrange for your donations. Help keep our babies healthy and reduce family stress during the holidays!"

Now that is a lot of diapers! I'm sure they could use your help to complete their mission or perhaps your Optimist Club might want to reach out to your community in a similar way.

Great ideas should be shared. Share your optimism today. Use the form below to tell us about one of your favorite service projects now.

November 30, 2013

Optimist Club creates calendar to connect newcomers to the community

middleton idaho optimist club
Find out what is happening in 2014 with a
Middleton Community Calendar from the Optimist Club.

The Middleton Area Optimist Club is only three years old, but it's made quite an impact on its hometown in Idaho. Most of the club's members are new to the community so they've come with fresh ideas about how to make their city a great place to live. Of course being a newcomer in a small town of less than 5,000 people can also be difficult because long-time residents "just know" when things happen and community events can pass by without the new resident's knowledge.

In order to overcome this problem, the members of the Middleton Area Optimist Club decided to create a community calendar for 2014. Members sought out dates for annual activities like craft bazaars, church socials, sports league sign-ups, among other things, and then added in their own events that include their popular Free Movies in the Park series in the summer and charity bingo throughout the year. The calendar also includes phone numbers to city services and other organizations so that a newcomer or a long-time resident can be plugged in to the events and activities year-round.

The calendar includes photos from events and activities in Middleton in 2013 and all money raised goes towards the Middleton Area Optimist Club's next big project. They are raising $150,000 for playground equipment in Foote Park, home to their signature movie in the park program.

The Middleton Area Optimist Club has become a point of pride for the community. According to one member, Victor Islas, who is shown holding the calendar in the above picture, a lot of groups start in Middleton with good intentions, but they somehow fail to follow through.The Optimist Club isn't like that, he says. They do more than talk about projects. They get things done.

Learn more about the Middleton Area Optimist Club at this link. 

Buy a Middleton Area Community Calender by sending an email here. 

November 27, 2013

Dictionaries will never go out of style

Does anyone really use a printed and bound dictionary anymore? I hear that asked whenever a dictionary donation program is mentioned and I always think, well, if they don't they should. There's something special about feeling the weight of a book in one's hand and actually flipping the pages to find what you are looking for presents a sense of accomplishment that one can't find or feel on Google.

I'm happy to report that the Stevens Point Noon and Plover Optimist Clubs in Wisconsin recently donated 600 Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionaries to the third grade classes in their school districts. It was the 10th year that they the clubs have sponsored this activity.

Shown here are some happy third graders from the St. Stephen Elementary School. Thanks to the Stephens Point Optimist Club for the picture.

November 24, 2013

Your Optimist Club brand is social

I was searching for a picture today and I stumbled up on this presentation. It was given by personal branding coach Christoph Trappe  to the Optimist Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I decided to share it here for three reasons.

First, it provides an example of how businesses can interact with your Optimist Club. By giving them fifteen or twenty minutes to share their expertise with your club members, business owners can raise awareness for the services that they provide.

Second, Mr. Trappe shared his experience of being at the Optimist Club on his community journalism blog: Christoph Trappe's Blog. That raises awareness for Optimist Clubs and provides authentic links to the organization's purpose.

Finally, the slides tell a good story about why it's important to share what you do as an Optimist Club and why you do it. I believe that we want to make the world a better place to live and raise our families. Social media provides a point of entry to share that purpose with a cross section of the public. It's a perfect platform to tell your stories and inspire others with your good deeds.

Okay, if you don't think that social media is a good thing for your Optimist Club at this point, perhaps you might want to try it out at work. Either way, you need to be online. The time frame is no longer when; it is now.

November 23, 2013

A sample of youth appreciation awards

The Optimist Club of Alexandria, Louisiana is just one of many Optimist Clubs who are honoring students this month. November is the traditional month for Optimist International Youth Appreciation although many clubs carry on youth appreciation activities throughout the year as they recognize students for academics, citizenship, and leadership, among other things.

This brief video from the awards presentation explains more about the program.

KALB-TV News Channel 5

You can also learn more at Optimist International or find an Optimist Club near you to experience optimism in action.

November 21, 2013

The oldest tree lot in Texas

The Christmas season sends Optimist Clubs out into the cold for fundraising activities that include, among other things, Christmas Tree lots! Of course if you belong to an Optimist Club in Texas, you're not going to be as cold as you might be in the northern states.That's why the Alamo Heights Optimist Club Christmas Tree lot has been successful for 57 years.

According to their publicity efforts, the Alamo Heights Optimist Club tree lot is the oldest and largest Christmas Tree lot in Texas and it's been manned by Optimist Club members at the same location, at the corner of Austin Hwy and Broadway, since its inception.

In addition to opening up the tree lot, the Optimist Club is engaged with all holiday festivities in the community. It participates in the holiday parade and it throws a party at the lot with a band as a kick-off celebration. All of the excitement starts on November 23.

That's right. Christmas is only a little over thirty days away. Happy holidays are here.

November 15, 2013

One more reason to get your Optimist Club online

I'm starting to see a  new challenge for Optimist Clubs and their publicity efforts. Just when they began to get more mentions in their local newspapers, the newspapers have put up paywalls. That's right; now in many locations, in order to see the good deeds and great pictures of your local Optimist Club at work you must be a digital subscriber to the newspaper.

The best way to overcome this obstacle and to continue to get positive stories about your Optimist Club in the media is to write about your projects yourself.

Start a blog, and like the Experience Optimism and PNW District Optimist Clubs blogs, your content will be available at all times.

In addition to stories, you'll be able to promote events, publish contact information, spread inspiration, and share optimism with others.

To get started, visit Blogger or and just follow through. It's pretty easy if you follow the instructions. However, we can also work together to get your Optimist Club online.

Would you like to work with me? Send a note now to Linda Vaught Jackson. I'd be honored to help your club create a public relations plan that helps it get noticed.

November 10, 2013

Embrace the meeting

Several years ago, Optimist International leaders began promoting a slight change in language for one to use when inviting someone to attend an Optimist Club meeting. Instead of using the word "meeting," they said you should invite someone to a breakfast, lunch, or gathering. It was their opinion that no one wanted to attend a meeting, but that they had to eat. Maybe so, but I know that I wouldn't be too pleased with a friend or an associate if they asked me to lunch only to find out that I was really part of a membership drive at their service club. And a gathering? Well, for me, that just brings to mind some sort of cult. My mind races to immortals, as depicted in the movie franchise "Highlander," when the gathering would bring all of their kind together to fight until there was only one.

Post by Urbandale Optimist Club invites people, members and others, to attend a gathering

Post by Urbandale Optimist Club invites people, members and others, to attend a gathering. 

I admit that even I have promoted the use of online calendars to and press releases to promote Optimist Club guest speakers as forums and lectures as topics of general interest. I still stand behind that idea; however, I don't agree with obfuscating that your reason for bringing people together is to conduct an Optimist Club meeting.

Meetings are an important part of our culture for the word itself implies that people are coming together for a purpose. That purpose might be social, educational, inspirational, or devotional, among other things; but it is its purposeful focus that helps us get things done. Meetings are important because:

  • In meetings, we learn about issues, share ideas, and develop plans to address problems, promote goodness, and make our world a better place to live.
  • Meetings are time-conscious. While there are always outliers, most meetings begin and end in a reasonable amount of time. Personally, I have no idea how long a gathering may last and depending on my schedule, I may not be willing to find out.
  • Meetings provide a sense of formality. Please don't confuse being formal to wearing a suit and tie; it doesn't matter what you wear to the occasion. Formality means that someone is accountable for what happens before, during and after the meeting. Someone cares enough to engage others and see projects through to the end.

I like the formality and accountability of the meeting process. I, for one, embrace the meeting and I encourage you to do so too.

November 7, 2013

How many days until Christmas?

santa house belleville optimist clubCan you believe it? In only three weeks, Santa will start making visits to local malls and houses set up just for him to visit with the public. In Belleville, Illinois, the Optimist Club has refurbished his house and set the hours when he will be entertaining guests, taking pictures and finding out just who has been naughty or nice.

Other Optimist Clubs are planning other Santa events, like the Delphos Optimist Club in Ohio where community members are asked to help ensure that everyone has a gift by contributing to an angel tree. Set up as the Delphos Community Christmas Project, the angel tree has been part of the community for 37 years.

Optimist Clubs help their communities in other ways during the holiday season and beyond. For the next two months, we'll be looking at food drives, coat drives and many other traditional community service activities including breakfasts with Santa as the big day draws near.

optimist club angel treeRight now, we're asking for your help. Send us a story and a picture so we can highlight your holiday project as part of the good things that Optimist Clubs do to make their communities a better place to live. Please send to optimist [at] newoptimistclub [dot] com. Thank you.

November 3, 2013

Remind people often of what you want them to know

experience optimism happiness
I recently stopped receiving updates from, not because I didn't like them, but because my inbox was getting so full that even with the emails, I rarely went to the site to see what was new.

Thanks to a pinner on Pinterest, this great depiction of "Inner State" of happiness, made at, caught my attention this morning.

It says that to be truly happy one should exercise, have happy friends, find excitement with smart thrills, get enough sleep, trust themselves to make good choices, be present and live for now, share their gratitude, bounce back from life's troubles, take time away from technology and smile.

Most of those wonderful thoughts have been shared here before, but they always bear repeating for they are good reminders to help us live a full and balanced life. But this post is serving two purposes this morning. First, it is to help you pursue and find happiness; but its second purpose is to point out that we don't always see something the first time around.

I missed this great infographic on, but found it later on Pinterest. I've read the words before, but never in this format. It was a fresh approach and it caught my attention.

That's why we have to repeat the information and stories that we want to be heard because people listen, read and react on their own schedules. If it's good for them to know, tell them again. And again.

October 29, 2013

Eerie or cute, it's Halloween

It's Halloween time, with ghouls, goblins and zombies appearing all about town and many are with an Optimist Club. I've seen parties, trunk or treat, and many more activities that are worthy of mention like the absolutely adorable pumpkin races that are taking place in Princeton, Illinois.

However, I've only seen one activity where the name truly fits: Eerie Erie. Yes, that's right, the Optimist Club of Erie, Colorado encourages the community to come out in costume for a 5k or 10k Goblin run or walk about town. They make the town eerie, if only for a few hours, just in time for Halloween. Some photos of the event, courtesy of the Erie Optimist Club are shown here. To learn more, please visit the Erie Optimist Club website. 

October 23, 2013

Royal Oak Optimist Club earns Community Spirit Award

It's no secret that optimists have great attitudes so it should come as no surprise that an Optimist Club, full of positive upbeat people, should win a spirit award for sharing their optimism with others. However, I'm not all that aware of many of those kinds of awards being given out so I was especially excited to hear that the Royal Oak Optimist Club was honored last evening, October 22, 2013,  at the 66th annual Royal Oak Community Awards Dinner.

Their award: The Community Spirit Award.

According to members, its fun to be a part of the activities that the club coordinates. In fact, it is so much fun, members bring their spouses and soon their spouses are members too. Member John Wagster explained, "It's very satisfying and fulfilling, getting to contribute and help the community. It's just a very positive experience for me."

And I would say it's a very positive experience for the community too, to have a group of caring adults who enjoy one another and work together to make things happen. Congratulations to the Royal Oak Optimist Club on your community spirit!

Photo contributed by the Royal Oak Optimist Club.

October 21, 2013

Make sure the message you send is the one you want to be heard

The Arizona and California South Districts of Optimist International held a combined district meeting this past weekend, October 19-20, 2013. It took place in Yuma, Arizona and Optimist International president-elect Ken Garner was in attendance. According to newspaper reports, he was there to speak about "how the philanthropic organization can carry out its mission of serving youth."

Ken Garner, President-elect, Optimist
International speaks in Yuma
Unfortunately, the article in the Yuma Sun didn't really explain how the organization accomplishes its mission and the reader is left uncertain what Garner's proposed actions for the future might be. It clearly stated, however,  that one of the biggest challenges for the organization is attracting new members. During the presentation, Garner further explained that individuals in the Gen-X and Millennial Generations are a priority for the organization to recruit.

This kind of message always concerns me. Yes, recruiting young adults is important; and yes, recruiting members is a challenge for any service organization. But really, do you want to tell that to the newspaper reporters?

Once aired, that message can take one's mind and writing in many different directions. An unfortunate result might include an exposé about declining memberships in service clubs and their lack of relevance in today's society, the very rumor that we in leadership positions work courageously to dispel.

Gaining media attention is important. Scoring an article, with pictures nonetheless, is what public relations is all about. However, delivering a message that furthers your cause is critical. Instead of creating awareness about a deficit, the speaker must explain how that void will be filled.

Based on what was said at the meeting as described in the Yuma Sun, I think the message delivered should have been, "Optimist International values a diverse membership, made up of individuals of all ages. Knowing that those in the Millennial and Gen-X generations need an extra push to be involved in service clubs, we've created the $30 under 30 program. The $30 under 30 program makes it easier for young adults to volunteer their time with an Optimist Club."

Optimist International delivers leadership training through the district meeting format. In that setting, it is appropriate that real concerns, like membership, come to light; but it is equally important that plans be made to address concerns. When bringing together such a unique and caring set of leaders, one must listen to them, talk to them, and open channels for two-way communication to take place. Most of all, one must respect that the answers to most questions that trouble the organization probably lie within such groups and understand that they will take what they heard at the meeting and share it through their local channels at home.

If you tell them that membership is declining; that is what they will believe and report. If instead you tell them that membership will be increased through particular strategic methods, they will believe that, report that, and work to make it happen.

Photo credit: Yuma Sun

October 19, 2013

Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman wins third place in Optimist International Oratorical Contest

On Wednesday, October 16, Paul Krugman, Nobel-prize winning economist, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, and op-ed columnist for the New York Times was awarded one of the 2013 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards. He was presented the Freedom of Speech honor for exemplifying FDR's vision of democracy.

While thankful and humbled by the honor bestowed upon him, Krugman posted on his blog that "In truth, nothing will ever top this," and he treated his readers to a photo of his third place trophy (shown below) won as a young teen, in an Optimist Club Oratorical Contest.

third place optimist international oratorical contest krugman

Optimist Clubs have been hosting the Optimist International Oratorical Contest since 1928 and countless young men and women have participated, gaining the confidence and poise that helps them develop as young adults and succeed in many diverse endeavors as adults. I find it so exciting when they acknowledge their participation, not because it brings awareness to the cause that I find so dear; but rather, because their acknowledgement is proof that Optimist Clubs truly help young people reach their full potential.

You can help children reach their full potential in your community by becoming an Optimist Club member today. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you and join. 

Photo credit: Paul Krugman at the New York Times

October 14, 2013

Big Kid Award goes to Mary Williams of Boone, NC

In North Carolina, the Boone Optimist Club has a tradition of honoring a local person for the impact that they have had on children over their lifetime. The recognition is known as the Big Kid Award.

This year that very special honor went to Mary Williams. For twenty-seven years, she has worked with students with special needs in the Watauga County school system. She's written and received grants totaling a quarter of a million dollars in order to start-up and maintain programs for this special population.

One of the most successful programs involves about 400 families each year as special needs parents are matched with other special needs parents to create a bond where they can share mutual experiences and learn from one another. Most of all, the "Parent to Parent" program provides a support system for parents, families and individuals with disabilities.

Most recently, she's started "Coffee Talk" where the special needs students are taught meaningful skills from shopping to making and serving coffee and accompanying items. During "Coffee Talk" events, the students raise funds which are then contributed to the adaptive PE program and other nonprofit causes in the area.

It sounds like Mary Williams has a big heart to match her newly granted "Big Kid" status. On behalf of all Optimist Club members, allow me to say, congratulations!

Photo and story contributed by the Boone Optimist Club.

October 10, 2013

Brand awareness starts with you

The Optimist Club of Leesburg, Florida is getting ready for Kids FunFest 2013. Club members have decided on the location; it will take place at the Harley Davidson of Leesburg. They have recruited sponsors and participants, informational exhibitors and vendors, and they are now in the process of marketing the event.

I'm happy to report that they took to Facebook and Twitter in order to gain some social media buzz and in both locations they claim that the Optimist Club of Leesburg is putting on Kids FunFest 2013. However, they've also included this flyer with their posts.

Notice anything wrong? Let's do a quick survey:

  • Location? Check.
  • Date? Check.
  • Time? Check.
  • Who will be there? Check. 
  • Who's coordinating the event? 
  • How do I get more information?

Sadly, they Optimist Club has forgotten to include its own name, logo and contact information as the coordinator of the event. Not only does the flyer leave questions unanswered, the Optimist Club will miss out on the community awareness and goodwill that the event will generate.

Don't be shy, Optimists! Share the Optimist International logo as often as you can. This is just one example of how brand awareness starts with you.

October 8, 2013

Lead outside your comfort zone

Every year on October 1 Optimist International installs new officers throughout the organization. Optimist Clubs get new presidents, districts get new governors and the organization welcomes a new international president as its leader. The structure encourages a rebirth of energy and enthusiasm and puts fresh eyes and hands to work to carry on the mission of the organization.

There is always a challenge to turnover; namely, change. We are programmed to resist change, not because we don't want it, but simply because change is different. Change may require us to act differently and as creatures of habit, that may make us uncomfortable. That's why the leader must put her followers at ease with open communication practices. Transparency is the friend of transition. It helps our cause when people know not only what we are doing, but why we are doing it and it furthers our cause when they are able to talk about it without feeling threatened. 

Two-way symmetrical communication is not a new concept; however, it has never been as achievable as it is today with the social media tools that exist. I encourage every Optimist Club and community service organization to embrace and use them widely in order to really engage with their constituents and stakeholders alike. Let your followers know what you're doing and listen thoughtfully to their concerns and, yes, even their criticisms. Only then will the organization open itself up to truly diverse growth potential. 

There is one other caution that I want to share with those who have recently accepted new leadership roles. It's tempting to think that this year is your year to be president. News flash: it's not. This is simply another year in the organization's long history and it is your turn to lead the organization. You must lead it in a manner that sustains it, nurtures it, and helps it to grow. 

Our leaders can be inspirational and some inspire action from individuals because of a personal commitment. However, your job as a leader is to reach out to all and to inspire more than those with whom you are already connected. John Quincy Adams said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." 

I challenge you to do more.  Lead outside your comfort zone; be a leader who inspires all. 

September 29, 2013

A year in the life of a Cerritos Optimist Club member

It's a tad long, but the Cerritos Optimist Club's community connections show through loud and clear in this video that takes you through a year of Optimist Club activities including a pancake breakfast, trunk-or-treat, youth appreciation and the Optimist International Oratorical and Essay contest among other events and causes. Kids and family are foremost on the minds of the members of the Cerritos Optimist Club and they even highlight how fun it is to visit the club for a breakfast meeting.

 I'm going to be in the area next week. Maybe I just might join them for the fun. If you live in the area, why not visit and join? They meet at 7:00 a.m. on the 1st, 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at The Off Street Cafe, 11020 Artesia Blvd,  Cerritos, CA 90703.


September 25, 2013

Conway Optimist Club shares football highlights

I'm sure that this video means more to the parents and players of the Conway Optimist Club youth football program than it will to most of my readers, but I couldn't resist sharing it here anyway. Over several days and through teams of different ages, the Optimist Club shares football highlights that includes completed passes, great blocks, superb running, and touchdowns.

One of the ways that Optimist Clubs make a difference in their community is to provide youth sports opportunities. The young athletes learn sportsmanship, discipline and even good health habits along the way.

Another way that an Optimist Club can make a difference is recognizing those kids for the things that they do. A video, uploaded to YouTube, that they can watch and share with their families and friends is the perfect way for those players to share their stories. And in our emerging and ever-evolving digital world, it is a way that will last well into the future.

September 24, 2013

Optimist Club hosts Avenue of Flags program in Knoxville

The Optimist Club of Knoxville, Tennessee has an Avenue of Flags program. On every national holiday, Optimist Club members rise early and decorate the city with the American flag and return in the evening to take them down and store until the next occasion. Businesses and homeowners sponsor the project by paying for an annual subscription and by doing so, the community service project turns into a fundraiser for the club.

Like any Optimist Club project, some members identify with the flag project more than others. For Bill Stone, President, 2013-2014 that includes wearing a Knoxville Optimist Club shirt that demonstrates his pride. Not only is the club's logo prominently displayed, the sleeves of the shirts are made of stars and stripes. Now how fun is that?

September 23, 2013

Children and optimists design cardboard city

I grew up in a family-owned business where we sold and repaired major appliances and consumer electronics. That meant we always had a surplus of large cardboard boxes. Oh how I wish I had known about this awesome Optimist Club project!

For the Art in the Park event in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the Stevens Point Noon Optimist Club created a cardboard box city. Sprawled out with a resemblance to an urban city, the boxes started out in their plain brown form. By the end of the event, the boxes were colorful renditions and exhibitions demonstrating the creativity of the young artists that made their way through the demonstration. Watch the video and learn more.

Art in the Park is produced annually by the Stevens Point Parks and Recreation Department Children's Arts Program. With over 100 arts and crafts tents, children, and others, share their talents and wares with the community.

September 22, 2013

Enthusiasm, the new metric driving social good

enthusiasm experience optimismAt the Social Good Summit, held at the United Nations September 22-24, 2013, Jean Case stated that the Case Foundation defines philanthropy as any active effort that promotes human welfare.

Using that definition, ideas shared through the variety of social media platforms are considered equally as powerful, purposeful and necessary as money. This is a big shift in thinking that organizations like Optimist Clubs must embrace.

So often I hear Optimist Club leaders saying, "We could do more if we had more money." Or a variation of that theme is, "We could do more if we had more members." While both may be true, and while both may go hand-in-hand, it is important that we remember no matter the size of our group, we, as individuals, have something that is more engaging to share: our enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm drives interest. When I see someone's enthusiasm for a project, I want to know more and of course I want to see them succeed. If their enthusiasm is for a group or organization, again, I want to know more and I might even want to join. However, joining is going to be a subjective decision based on how well I can answer questions like:

  • Will my participation make a difference?
  • Is there a need for my skills?
  • What else does the group do? 
  • Are these people I want to associate with? 
  • Will belonging make me happy?
  • Is it easy to join? 
There are more questions inside those questions and some can be answered outright while others will be answered on instinct. However, that enthusiasm quotient is going to be a driving force in my decision.

In public relations practice, gaining publicity for one's client or employer is a prime directive. Rotary International has just spent millions of dollars revamping its website and molding its appearance to appeal to the contemporary audience. Much of its work highlights the enthusiasm that individual members share for their cause and how that passion has been unified by membership in the organization. Rotary is promoting the personal stories of its members in order to gain impetus for performing activities that promote universal social good through its well-organized club model. I applaud its efforts. 

But I also believe that enthusiasm is more authentic and more easily transferred when promoted on a local level. As much as I embrace the opportunity to connect with others across the globe that the social web offers, it takes smaller groups of people, passionately sharing their enthusiasm for their cause, to raise awareness at home to solve local problems. Eventually, they will connect with others who share similar interests on a regional, national and an international level. However, reaching out to the international level immediately overlooks the needs at home and when we ignore that, we lose our foundation. 

Service clubs have long served as the foundation from which social good emanates.  And through the social web, the ability of their members to share their enthusiasm and make a difference has been heightened. I hope that means their appeal is on the rebound as well. 


September 20, 2013

Past Optimist International President looks to the future

Reprinted with permission from PNW Optimist Clubs. 

In 1973, Washington resident and PNW District member Ronald E. Thompson was inducted as the President of Optimist International.

In July 2013, he attended the 95th Annual Optimist International Convention and thus made his 48th crusade to the gathering of Optimist Club leaders. At 82, he is the the second oldest of the past presidents.

A lot has changed since Ron was president. Women are now members and leaders. Programs have been added including the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships and the Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. And sadly, although Optimist Clubs continue to do even more in their communities, membership is down.

Ron recently made a presentation to the West Tacoma Optimist Club, his home club, regarding the business conducted at the most recent convention. He explained that membership in the international organization is now at approximately 80,000 individuals and made a plea that new and younger members were needed.

He also explained some steps that were taken by convention attendees that might attract busy young members to get involved. Among those changes was an initiative for online voting. Beginning in 2014, Optimist Clubs will vote online for international officers prior to the convention.

Also beginning this year, Optimist International will host a series of summits at sixteen different locations. The idea is to host quality affordable and accessible Optimist Club training at more locations than ever before.  And of course, for the Optimist Club members in the Western Region, we'll be delighted to know that the Optimist International Convention will also be affordable and accessible. It will be held in Las Vegas, July 10-12, 2014.

And yes, Past International President Ron Thompson plans to be there for the 49th time.

Photo courtesy of the West Tacoma Optimist Club. 

September 15, 2013

The Optimist Ice Arena

The Optimist Club of Jackson, Michigan takes their hockey seriously and that's why they created the Optimist Ice Arena.

The Optimist Ice Arena is home to numerous hockey teams, but it's also open to the public with public skates scheduled throughout the week and on the weekend as permitting. It also hosts special events like Go Karts on ice and rentals for private parties.

But what I like most is the opportunity for mentoring and inter-generational activities between coaches, players, parents and Optimist Club members because that's what being an Optimist Club member is really all about.

September 13, 2013

Pizza Party!

The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for pizza. That's right! On September 7, 2013, the Middleton Area Optimist Club in Idaho treated their community to free pizza. It purchased 100 pizzas and 36 orders of breadsticks from a local pizzaria and invited everyone to enjoy a free slice while it lasted.

The pizza party coincided with three events. First, it was the club's third birthday. Three years ago, the Middleton Area Optimist Club was chartered and began doing good things in the community. Club members thought the pizza party was a nice way to say thank you to all of their supporters. The pizza party also took place on a Free Movie in the Park night. Free Movies in the Park is the Optimist Club's signature event. And being the weekend after Labor Day, the club also helped kids celebrate the return to school. 

Middleton, Idaho's population is approximately 5,000 residents. According to a club spokesperson, the 800 pieces of pizza went a longer way than expected, but even so, they are looking at increasing the number of pizzas for next year. "Watching the kids smile is worth it every time," explained Tyson Sparrow, coordinator of the event. 

Yes it is, Tyson. Those smiles are the individual payment for a productive Optimist Club.

September 9, 2013

Hello there, trout

Four-year old James McCoy caught his first fish over the weekend. It was a 14-inch trout and the occasion was made possible by an Optimist Club.

The Optimist Club members of Buena Vista, Colorado were the hosts of the Annual Fun in the Park event that included the fishing derby. Local angler groups and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife helped sponsor the event and served as mentors for the young fishermen and women.

According to the Optimist Club, significant numbers to know from the event are:
  • 122 kids went fishing
  • 76 fish were caught
  • 196 bags of chips were consumed
  • 10 gallons of lemonaid were drank
  • 220 hot dogs and buns were enjoyed by all
And at least one young man saw up close and personal just how scary a 14-inch trout can be. 

Story and picture courtesy of the Buena Vista Optimist Club.

September 5, 2013

Something you've never done

Communication. Why is it such a challenging concept?
I'm struggling at my day job with both a misrepresentation and misunderstanding. Because something was presented to me in an obtuse way, I adopted a certain line of thinking that I have had for nearly one year. I was recently told my thinking was wrong and while I've explained my position and how arrived at my understanding, rather than working towards a reasonable middle ground that benefits both parties, I was told that my way of thinking was untenable. Seriously? It's the reality in which I have functioned for nearly one year and on which our relationship is based; how can that be untenable?

Untenable is a strong word that polarizes parties even when they have mutually beneficial goals. It's the true role of the public relations communicator to not allow untenable situations arise. This is perhaps my greatest challenge with individuals who consider themselves adept at public relations but who are not public relations professionals. They put on a smiley face and glad-hand those whom they want to influence; however, when there is a misunderstanding that does not go their way, they are the first to cut bait, indicate my way or the highway, burn bridges, and perform every other tired cliche for moving on. 

Even true public relations professionals are challenged by this mindset because it is so self-serving. It's difficult to serve the greater good when one or both parties decide they can't, or won't, work with one another. 

Of course, had I realized I had an questionable belief one year ago, I would have struggled to learn more and to perhaps revise my interpretation. Now I feel put off to the point that not working together may just fit my needs as well. There's a quote that says, "If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something that you have never done." This may just be the day I do just that. Wish me luck. 

August 30, 2013

Hire an optimist

If you live in the Whitewater, Wisconsin area, here is a deal that you don't want to miss! Hire an optimist and you'll help support the University of Whitewater Student Optimist Club's service learning trip to Burkina Faso. Your contribution is tax deductible, you'll get some chores done around your home or business and the community of Burkina Faso will benefit from the talent and passion of some fabulous young people.

The UW-W Student Optimist Club has a history of making mission-style trips. in 2012 they worked with an orphanage, multiple schools and many underprivileged youth in four regions of Ecuador. While the onsite work is rewarding for both the students and beneficiaries, much goes on behind the scenes as well as the students prepare to go. Not only do they fund raise for expenses, they raise money to purchase needed supplies, hold clothing drives and learn about the region they will be serving.

In Burkina Faso, the group of students will be:
  • Building computer lab
  • Creating sustainable gardens
  • Building a Student Optimist Club
  • Delivering soccer balls and interacting with children 
  • Delivering medical supplies, equipment and knowledge 
  • Delivering educational supplies and hygiene supplies
But before they leave, they must raise enough money to ship an ambulance to Dedougou. It will be the first emergency vehicle in the African community. 

Find out more about the trip and how you can contribute to the Student Optimist Club's success: 

Or make a donation to the UW-Whitewater Student Optimist Club Service Learning Trip to Burkina Faso by sending a check to:

Optimist International Foundation
c/o Kim Adams
800 W. Main St. UC 250
Whitewater, WI 53190

August 28, 2013

Optimist Clubs at the Minnesota State Fair

For twelve days, Optimist Club members in Minnesota have taken to the State Fair. Running from August 22 to September 2, 2013, several different Minnesota Optimist Clubs will be hosting a booth in search of new members. They'll also share the projects that stir their passion and interests and generally let others know about the good things that Optimist Clubs do in their communities. They'll let kids know how to participate in the scholarship programs and adults will learn how to join or contribute and be a part of the most positive movement in town.

But what I found especially cool about this project is that it is being documented with a video tribute called "Optimists at the Fair." The video below was posted by My Music Matters Radio Show; however, more videos can be found on Facebook uploaded by Kelly Casey.  She's posting a new one every day.

Sharing the Optimist Club story with potential new members is essential and the Minnesota Optimist Clubs have proved that it can also be fun. You want to join now, don't you?

August 27, 2013

Live the Optimist Creed

Sharing the Optimist Creed is one of my favorite things to do. And it is oh-so easy with social media, from Facebook to Pinterest and beyond, to spread its message far and wide.

Experience Optimism Optimist Creed

The Optimist Creed was written by Christian D. Larson in 1912. In 1922, Optimist International adopted the Optimist Creed as a statement of self-responsibility to make our world a better place to live. It has been adopted by other causes, but none other are as far-reaching as the Optimist Club's ability to do good things in local communities around the world. Every Optimist Club meeting begins or ends by its members reciting the Creed together as they share its promises with one another. Shared promises become more than a dream, they become a responsibility and in time, a reality.

Many individuals choose particular lines from the Optimist Creed as their favorite. As for me, I like them all and depending on the day, one may have more meaning. Today, for instance, I'm finding motivation in, "Press on to the greater achievements of the future."

You see, the summer is almost over and as children return to school, the fall begins with a zest for new beginnings. At work, the summer lull is blossoming into a full schedule of autumn events, events that will nurture the participants. I will take care to share the tenet, "To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others," as I coordinate professional development activities for my employer and as I work with my Optimist Club and District, I will give special attention to, "Make all your friends feel that there is something in them."

There's something in the Optimist Creed for everybody. Read it. Enjoy it. Share it. Most of all, live it. Live the Optimist Creed.


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