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. 


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