December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! 2015 will be the best

optimist creed

My new year's message for 2015 comes straight from the Optimist Creed. In the fifth line, Christian D. Larson challenged himself and others to think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.

Really, why would anyone do anything less?

Sometimes we don't meet our goals and that's okay; but it is not okay to try to be mediocre. Our country was founded on the principle of being the best. Our forefathers shared a positive vision, hard work and high expectations and those same attributes continue to make the United States the leading country in the world.

Those attributes can make you successful, too. It's up to you to accept the challenge and make the promise to yourself: 2015 will be the best. If you think it, and work for it, it will come true.

December 24, 2014

Le Père Noël visite le Club Optimiste de Templeton

No matter the language, Santa is Santa, children are children, and Christmas is Christmas.

My friend, Andre Therrien, an Optimist Club member from Quebec, recently posted this delightful 1-minute romp through the Optimist Club of Templeton's Christmas program.

Delighting children, and thereby ourselves, is what Optimist Clubs do best.

I invite you to share the magic. Share optimism. Join an Optimist Club today. And have a very Merry Christmas.

December 20, 2014

Find your happy place

Join an Optimist Club experience optimism

My happy place is on a beach watching the waves crash to the shore while the sun warms my face and the blue sky inspires my dreams. It's calming to my senses and makes me smile.

However, I don't live by the beach so most often, like most, I look for other venues that can serve as my happy place. One of those places is an Optimist Club.

Over the years, I've visited a lot of Optimist Clubs and I have my favorites. Clubs that are steeped in tradition remind me of the legacy that service clubs have given our communities. Clubs that are more social remind me of the fellowship that binds our communities together so that we can work towards common goals.

But it is the blending of the two that makes me happiest. I find that in the Middleton Area Optimist Club. Much like the origin of Optimist Clubs, way back in Buffalo, New York in 1911, this young club relies on their club members as a social group and the tradition afforded by associating with Optimist International brings purpose to their friendship. That purpose is to serve their community and thereby help themselves.

That's why an Optimist Club of any flavor is a happy place. We serve others so that we might help ourselves and that is what makes the world a happier place as well.

Find your happy place at an Optimist Club and join today. If there is not an Optimist Club in your community, please let me know and I will help you get one started.

December 18, 2014

Positive WOMM* for the Gresham Optimist Club Shop with a Cop program

The Gresham Optimist Club hosts two days each year where children get the opportunity to Shop with a Cop. The idea behind the program is to give kiddos a positive experience with a law enforcement officer. At the same time, the children pick up a gift for themselves and shop for others so that they have the experience of giving as well as receiving.

It's a wonderful program! In fact, so wonderful that community members take notice.

Appearing in my Facebook news today was the following link. Stephanie Jaye Adams snapped a picture of an officer and a child and then told the world about it. She said, "Yesterday I stopped by the Heights Target and saw about fifty police officers--each had a small child by the hand and they were shopping for Christmas. These men and women were so patient and gentle. I saw love there.Listen, people. Tell the good stories, too. When you see it done right, tell that story, too."

What great advice! Be sure to tell your Optimist Club story on Facebook and beyond. And share it with us so we can amplify the great works that your Optimist Club does in your community. Thank you.

*Word of mouth marketing

December 14, 2014

Give the gift of yourself

Join an Optimist Club today
It's always exciting to receive a gift. A brightly wrapped package, especially at Christmas, brings a special joy to the recipient and an equal, if not more, sense of satisfaction to the giver. It is sad that gift giving is sometimes the only shared moments between adults and children.

Optimist Clubs work hard every day to change that dynamic as members look for ways to interact with youth in meaningful ways. They partner with child-serving organizations in their local communities including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs, among others; and they create programs needed on a local level like sports programs, literacy programs, and so much more. 

Every Optimist Club has the ability to involve children in international programs such as the Optimist International Oratorical and Essay Contests, and the Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. 

The beauty of each of these programs is they allow children and adults to come together, and to work together, in a positive way. Through Optimist Club programs, children receive the greatest gift of all: the attention of a caring adult. 

Don't you want to be that kind of adult? Yes? Then you should join an Optimist Club today. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me and I'll help you get a new Optimist Club started in your community. 

December 11, 2014

Young members bring more service to youth

We hear too many stories about how people, especially young, millennial generation individuals, are not joining service clubs. I'm happy to report that is not the case in the Optimist Clubs of Jamaica.

This picture, contributed by the Optimist Club of Mammee Bay in St. Ann, Jamaica shows a youthful surge in membership. All were inducted at their recent installation banquet where they also heard from  Debbian Livingstone-Edwards, legal and policy officer at the Office of the Children's Advocate. Ms. Livingstone-Edwards explained the importance of positive role models in the development of youth.

"As parents and guardians and teachers and community leaders we cannot sew peas and expect to reap corn. Our children are likely to reproduce the values we teach them by our own interaction, conduct and philosophies," she explained.

The Optimist Club of Mammee Bay has identified a school in the community that it will work more closely with in the coming year as it continues to serve the youth. 

Photo courtesy of the Optimist Club of Mammee Bay. 

December 7, 2014

Shop with a Cop brings kids and cops together

fort smallwood annapolis Optimist Club
The Fort Smallwood Optimist Club, Annapolis Optimist Club and Cherry Hill Optimist Club came together on December 5, 2014 to hold the 11th Annual Shop with a Cop program. The clubs paired police officers with 82 children and set them loose in Walmart to do some Christmas shopping.

fort smallwood optimist clubThe officers were there to provide moral support for the children's shopping spree. Afterwards, they had lunch at the Outback Steakhouse and tackled some Christmas wrapping for the presents they bought for others.

Shop with a Cop programs are popular because they give children an opportunity to interact with police officers in a positive manner, building trust and letting them know that police officers can be their friends.

As Optimist Clubs provide youth-serving projects for communities, they are a natural catalyst to bring the two groups together. They provide the administration and funding support to make the program successful.

fort smallwood optimist club shopfort smallwood shop with a cop optimist

Fort Smallwood Optimist Club
Fort Smallwood Optimist Club
Shop with a Cop 2014

Photos courtesy of the Fort Smallwood Optimist Club. Check out the full collection on Facebook.

December 5, 2014


Optimist Club of St. Charles MO

Many Optimist Clubs have taken to holding meetings at different times of the day in order to meet the schedules of their busy members. Clubs that typically meet in the morning or at noon will host an evening gathering and attract not only members, but also their spouses and perhaps a guest or two. 

I recently had the pleasure of dropping in on the Optimist Club of St. Charles, MO at their evening event, or as they call it: O2GO. 

I have to say, I love the branding. Just like a take-out order at a restaurant, it's optimism to go, road-ready and member approved! 

Evening meetings can take a traditional format or follow the model of this one and be purely a social gathering for building friendships around the mission of optimism. When you are open and welcoming to new people and ideas, your Optimist Club will be successful.  Have a few members that you haven't seen recently? Try O2GO and see if they won't try to make it to see their friends. 

November 27, 2014

Giving thanks

Every year, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Day there seems to be an outpouring of gratitude. People begin to openly express their thanks for their families and friends and their health and happiness, among other things.

As an active Optimist Club member, I am also thankful for the opportunity and ability that I have been given to help others.

But all of these things happen throughout the year, not only on the fourth Thursday of November. For that reason, I remind you that there is always, every day, something to be thankful for. I encourage you to share your gratitude aloud, if only to yourself, every day.

Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for being you. I am grateful for your interest and support.

If you live in the US, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving and if you live elsewhere in our beautiful world, please find joy in the rising sun and allow its brilliance to warm you through the day.

November 24, 2014

Say what?

You may remember the 1980's television show "Different Strokes" where young Gary Coleman popularized the skeptical rhetorical reply, "What you talkin' bout Willis?"

When something sounded sketchy or hard to understand, he'd squint, puff out his lips, and tilt his head to the side as the question came forth asking for clarity to whatever situation presented itself that day.

As I was scrolling through my Google alerts for Optimist Clubs today, I found myself in the same pose. What are you talking about, I asked, as I read this quote:
Optimists believe that deep unbreakable faith forged into a fundamental attitude of positive self expectancy is the eternal spring from which all creative, inspirational energy flows. Please take a minute to read our creed; It is the key to maintaining an Optimist's positive mental attitude.
Wow. What an incredibly hard way to say that Optimist Clubs promote a positive vision and that members are hopeful and cheerful, among other optimistic attributes.

This is a good time to remind you about KISS: keep it simple, sweetie.

Share optimism. And be sure the average person can understand what you are sharing.

November 23, 2014

The ROI of joining an Optimist Club

So often, when asked to join a membership association, people will ask, "What's in it for me?"

They wonder:
  • Will it advance my career? 
  • Will it make my workload any easier? 
  • Will it give me more time to be with my family or friends? 
  • Will it help me make more friends? 
  • Will it give me influence?
  • Will it help me make more money? 

The questions continue, both verbal and nonverbal, while someone weighs the value of giving their time to a particular group as the membership recruiter struggles to point out how wonderful it is to associate with a group of like-minded individuals for yes, all of the above will happen if you allow it to happen. Yet despite all the fine attributes of joining, the decision often defaults to no.

How sad it is that in a world where individual advancement is valued so highly, the concept of return on investment is missed by so many. When you invest your time by giving of yourself in service to others, you are rewarded with a positive understanding of self-worth. It makes you feel good about being you.

Flora Edwards said, "In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us."

Kindness begets kindness. Be kind and join an Optimist Club today and share your kindness through service.

Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or contact me and I'll help you organize a new Optimist Club in your community.

November 18, 2014

Project energy and enthusiasm

One of the biggest concerns or challenges that I hear from Optimist Club members is that they have trouble getting noticed by the news. Without going into details in this post about what would make an Optimist Club project newsworthy, I'd like to share a recent television interview scored by the Optimist Club of Lafayette, Louisiana. Its spokesperson was invited to share the details about the Optimist Club's haunted hayride during the morning show.

My concern on watching this interview was that the newscaster was more enthusiastic than the spokesperson. The spokesperson got the details of the event out there, but  she didn't give any of the positive emotions that one would want to feel about going to a community event.

Some tips for giving interviews:

  • Be prepared. 
  • Be ready with a soundbite - Succinctly state two or three key points that you want everyone to know.
  • Be enthusiastic about what you are promoting. Project energy. Smile.
  • If it is a serious story, share the gravity of the situation with the proper inflection of your voice. 

Engaging with the audience is an important element of public speaking whether one be in-person or on-camera, and every spokesperson gets better with experience. Kudos to the Optimist Club of Lafayette, Louisiana for making news.

November 16, 2014

Celebrate every day

join an optimist club celebrate
Fireworks are always magical. They light up the sky, showering the black night with red, white, green and gold bursts of awe. It is sad that the wonder is saved for the Fourth of July, New Year's eve and other special days of the year.

Fortunately, one need not wait for fireworks to celebrate their lives. Oprah Winfrey said, "The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is to celebrate."

I find this quote so true. It's like being happy; you have to choose to be happy and then all that you see around you becomes a positive reflection of your perception.

Joining an Optimist Club can create a perception of positivity as well. By joining with like-minded individuals, you share your good thoughts and deeds to make the world not only a better place, but a happier place. Together, you celebrate every day for every day, just like every person, is special and worthy of joy.

I invite you to join with me in the celebration. Join an Optimist Club and see just what I'm talking about.

Click here to find an Optimist Club near you. If you don't see an Optimist Club in your community, let me know and I'll help you get one started.

November 8, 2014

The world needs more optimists

join an optimist club | www.experienceoptimism.orgI'm traveling this weekend for Optimist International. As part of the preparation for serving as an International Vice President, the organization hosted a "Coaches Clinic" where the leadership team shared their individual game plans for encouraging growth within their region. We spoke of how important a communications plan was to success and for most, social media was a key component of their plans. Of course, I encouraged the use of blogs in order for more people to share their enthusiasm for belonging to an Optimist Club. It is an avenue that I will promote throughout the year.

Of special interest to me was a program, or push if you will, to build mission driven Optimist Clubs. Can you guess what the mission is? I am happy to report that the mission is optimism. What is the one thing that your Optimist Club brings to the community that is not provided by anyone else?

A positive outlook.

Many organizations provide services for children. Many organizations perform projects and community service that make their communities a better place to live.  However, only the Optimist Club starts first with a feeling of hope and optimism and we do that better than anyone else. That's a mission that should be shared with others.

Mission driven Optimist Clubs will encourage the start-up of new Optimist Clubs that put optimism at the top of the list of services they provide to their communities and that in itself is a positive thing. It will help deliver the brand message that many have so long struggled to define. Putting optimism first will lead to more members, happier communities and provide a sense of purpose among members far and wide. We need more Optimists. Won't you join an Optimist Club today?

Please click here to find an Optimist Club near you or send me a message and I will help you start a new Optimist Club in your community.

November 1, 2014

Optimist Club members have their hands out

join an optimist club
Something that I've noticed about Optimist Club members is they always have their hands out. Those hands are extended in friendship and service.

Optimist Clubs perform many projects annually including, but not limited to, the Optimist International Scholarship Programs, Youth Appreciation Week, Respect for Law, and Optimist Junior Golf. And they always do projects that impact their local community as needed, like building a park or donating to school programs among other things.

They will never fail when asked to do just a little more. Need drivers for your Meals on Wheels program? Ask the Optimist Club. Looking for chaperones for the school dance? Ask the Optimist Club. Are the leaves out of control in front of the Food Bank? Ask the Optimist Club. There is no project too small or too large for the helping hands of your local Optimist Club - that's what being a community service club is all about.

To get involved, find an Optimist Club near you and join. If there is not a club near you, contact me and I'll help you get a new Optimist Club started in your community.

October 28, 2014

Man sells 20,000 tickets to an Optimist Club pancake breakfast

Here's one of those odd stories about an Optimist Club member that just makes you smile. Mr. Bill Binner of the Fond Du Lac Optimist Club has sold 20,000 pancake breakfast tickets.

It started in 1971. Like many service club volunteers, Mr. Binner was given 45 tickets to sell to the club's first annual pancake breakfast fundraiser and he found the number daunting. Diligently serving his new Optimist Club, with a suggestion from his wife, he went door-to-door to meet his neighbors and sell his allotted tickets.  He went on to sell 200 tickets that first year and every year since he has topped his sales goals reaching the 20,000 mark for this year's annual event.

This marks 43 years that the Wisconsin Optimist Club has hosted Pancake Day. The event will take place Saturday, November 8, 2014, 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., North Presentation Parish Center, 706 Minnesota Avenue, North Fond du Lac.

Photo Credit: Doug Rafik/Action Reporter Media. Read more here.

October 25, 2014

Press on to optimism

Join an Optimist Club
The seventh tenet of the Optimist Creed tells you to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

My question today is why would that sentiment be held only for mistakes? Why not press on from one success to the next? From one victory to the next? From one achievement to another?

Yes, optimists are good at keeping their hope alive in the face of failure. That faith is what allows them to try again and again when needed.

But optimists use that same faith to know that they can always do just a little bit more. When they win a gold medal, they try even harder to shave one, two or three seconds off their best time the next time around.

The same goes for coordinating projects in their community. When ten children show up at the first bicycle rodeo, they aren't discouraged. They press on and attract 100 to their next event and with that positive, upbeat attitude, they progress onward and upward to make a real difference in their community.

Don't you want to feel that sense of achievement? Then I invite you to join an Optimist Club. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or send me a message and I'll help you get one started in your community.

October 18, 2014

Share a memory, share a laugh, share optimism

A week has passed since I shared my thoughts about being home in the St. Louis area. This week I've moved on to my college town - Peoria, Illinois.

Yes, I'm a Bradley University alumni and it's been at least fifteen years since I visited the campus. Quite by accident, I've arrived just in time for Homecoming. The school is abuzz and colors are proudly being worn by students, professors, parents and alumni alike.

The campus has developed so much since my last visit with a new entrance, exhibition arena and recreation building, among other things. Now there is a tennis complex right across the street from campus! I was a varsity player and we had to drive to practice so that is a positive change. Actually, everything I see is a very positive change for students, the school and the community. It's great to see growth and economic development that enriches the quality of life.

One thing that remains the same is the heritage that Lydia Moss Bradley established in 1897. Bradley and Westlake Halls stand as proud remembrance to its founder. I remember walking through campus with friends, on my way to classes in those very buildings and it makes me smile to see students still doing the same.

While I'm in Peoria, I will also attend the Illinois District - Optimist International quarterly meeting. I'm looking forward to seeing my old friends, in an old town that means so much to me. I know that I will share some memories and a laugh or two and that makes me smile as well.

Won't you join an Optimist Club and share a laugh with a friend as well? I hope so. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or send me a message and I'll help you get one started in your community.

October 11, 2014

Don't be lonely: Join an Optimist Club

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I'm visiting friends in the St. Louis metropolitan area this week. It's home, although it doesn't really feel like it anymore. I've been living in Idaho for fifteen years and so much has changed in my old stomping grounds.

Roads have different names, entire malls have closed and others have opened in different locations, and the city itself seems to have somehow become more compact. It doesn't take as long to get from the Illinois side of the Mississippi River to the West County suburbs.

On its face, it would seem that this is all a good way to build community. After all the Cardinals baseball team is in the playoffs this year and one can certainly feel that the area is one Cardinals Nation. However, in reality, I feel distant and alone. My friends say, it's not the same, Linda, people have moved on. How sad and true and necessary that statement is.

Do you know what I'm going to do to make it feel like home again? I'm reaching out to the Optimist Club. The Illinois District is hosting it's quarterly meeting on October 17-18, 2014 and I plan to be there. I know I'll find some old friends and make some new ones. Most important, I'll feel like a belong because with them, I feel a sense of purpose. We share a vision of community service that brings hope and optimism to all.

If you are feeling lonely, don't be alone. Join an Optimist Club. Click here to find an Optimist Club near you or send me a message and I'll help you get one started in your community.

October 9, 2014

Ken Garner declares war

Reverting to the random, abstract presidential theme used by Optimist International presidents before him, Ken Garner has decided that this administrative year will focus on "the best."

Whether it be "bringing out the best in kids," which part of the vision statement, "With hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in children;" or a salute to the tenet of the Optimist Creed that says, "Promise yourself to think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best;" Garner hopes to eradicate apathy and pessimism by encouraging the best in all endeavors.

He explains more in his first video to the organization as president.

Garner uses the word war to describe his approach. He says, "I declare a war on apathy and pessimism."

As a public relations communicator, I might have suggested a different tactic; war seems to me the polar opposite of hope and optimism. It's funny how our words play differently in individuals' minds.

In any case, I support his efforts and expect only the best. Good luck to all Optimist Clubs in your annual pursuit of optimism.

October 4, 2014

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day
There is a song that begins with the refrain, "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May." The Temptations were talking about "My Girl;" but I find sunshine in the warmth and positive vision of an Optimist Club.

Part of my commitment may be attributed to the words of the Optimist Creed. Through them, I am reminded to keep my spirit high and to expect only the best. However, words on paper, even when recited aloud, are only words. It takes action to make the promises a reality.

Every week,  I work with a group of like-minded individuals to make a difference in my community. Sometimes we are hands-on with a project. Other times we learn, discuss and plan. And sometimes we just take time to celebrate not only our accomplishments, but also our friendship. Each is equally important, but it is the camaraderie that leads us to want to do even more together. It's that camaraderie that motivates others to get involved.

If you look around, you may notice that there are usually enough volunteers who will pitch in when a project is started; but getting them involved in the discovery and planning process is a little harder. Pointing to busy schedules, people are reluctant to add another meeting to their week. That's one of the reasons that Optimist Clubs, as well as other service clubs, are experiencing decline in membership. The simple solution is to make your Optimist Club meeting a source of social good.

Social good is defined as a specific "good" that is beneficial to a whole community. With that broad of a definition, it might be wise to realize that we each belong to a number of different communities, or groups if you prefer, that come together to make the whole. In the case of the service club, your membership makes you a part of that community. The social good you experience will be personalized to you through your interaction with the group. The group will decide to do projects that contribute to a larger group. The larger group may continue that radiation affect. Building from a nucleus like an Optimist Club, your community can thrive, and just like the picture in today's image, the rays of sunshine will be seen and felt by all.

If you want sunshine on a cloudy day, look no further than your local Optimist Club.

October 1, 2014

Earn a communications scholarship through Optimist International

Optimist International began a new administrative year today, October 1, 2014. Congratulations and thank you to all of the Optimist Club officers who have been chosen to lead in their communities around the world.

One of the first and most pressing items of business for all should be the promotion of the Optimist International Scholarship Programs. These great opportunities begin at the Optimist Club level and allow students and members to interact as the children improve their communication skills.

optimist international oratorical contest

First up is the Optimist International Essay Contest. It takes place in the fall and early winter with the topic "Optimism Should be a Priority." Click here to see the complete Essay Contest rules and then contact your local Optimist Club to learn when your essay must be submitted.

In the spring comes the oratorical contests, the traditional Optimist International Oratorical Contest and the Communications Contest for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) students. The topic for both is "How My Optimism Will Help Me Press on to the Greater Achievements of the Future."

Click here for the Optimist Oratorical Contest rules.
Click here for the CCDHH rules. 

Remember, you must check in with your local Optimist Club for their submission and contest dates.

All contests award a $2,500 scholarship at the district level. Funded by the Optimist International Foundation, more than $150,000 is given away each year in the form of college tuition for students who have competed in an Optimist International Scholarship Contest.

If you are an Optimist Club, you may download the template for the promotional flyer here.

September 28, 2014

Your community needs you to be a positive force for good

join an optimist club
This is the final week of the Optimist International administrative year. When Optimist Club members wake up on Wednesday, there will be a new international president in place and new governors to lead in the 48 districts around the world.

For the most part, this is a fairly seamless process. Optimist Club members are probably not giving much thought to the district and international structure that exists outside of their local communities. That's because Optimist Club members are most interested in what they do every day to make their personal communities a better place to live.

Simply stated, Optimist Clubs use an international structure to accomplish local results. There is unity and strength in the fact that 2,500 Optimist Clubs work on similar projects at different times during the year. But for me and many others, it is more important that every Optimist Club member is sharing their optimism with others every day.

By coming together as an Optimist Club, members share the Optimist Creed and dozens of positive projects, among other things, with each other.  Then they take their positive attitudes and share it with others at work and home and other places that they may travel every day. Their optimism gives hope to all.

Your community needs you to provide that hope. You can share your optimism by joining an Optimist Club today.  Already a member? Don't keep the positive vibes all to yourself. Ask others to join and be a positive force for good right along with you.

September 20, 2014

Be a building block for your community: Join an Optimist Club

share optimism.
I woke up to a beautiful fall morning. My day is planned; I'm working with the Middleton Area Optimist Club at the community's Harvest Festival.

I agree that September seems a little earlier than normal for this event. Most harvest festivals take place in October, or am I confusing that with an Oktoberfest?

No matter. The Middleton Area Optimist Club will host three activities today:

  • Pumpkin Races
  • Chalk Art Demonstration
  • Ping Pong Ball Drop
All are designed to engage children and their families in activities. That's something that I really like about this club. It strives to involve the family.

Many Optimist Clubs will host activities that recognize or involve children and that is a remarkable goal. Allowing kids to be kids with the watchful eye and caring hand of an adult is rewarding and for many children without involved parents, an Optimist Club program can be a blessing. It is so important that it is there. 

However, an Optimist Club doesn't try to replace a child's family. Instead, it strives to enhance it. The members of the Middleton Area Optimist Club have discovered that if they put on programs that they want to attend, others will want to attend them too. They come up with ideas that keep them in town, in their local surroundings. They create community.

This model is inclusive, as everyone wants to participate - spouses, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and extended family and friends. 

The Middleton Area Optimist Club is a community builder and that energizes me, a single lady, to be involved. I encourage everyone to become a building block for their community by joining and working with an Optimist Club. 

Find an Optimist Club here  or let me know if I can help you get a new Optimist Club in your community by sending me an email message here.

September 13, 2014

Another perspective

http://www.experienceoptimism.orgI have been facilitating a discussion on the Optimist International group on LinkedIn that asks members to suggest possible solutions to reverse the decline of membership enrollment in Optimist Clubs around the world. Optimist International is no different from other service organizations like Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis; all are experiencing membership decline.

What I have discovered in the process comes as no surprise to me. It is difficult to suggest a solution because every individual perceives the problem differently due to their personal relationship to the organization. Everyone is involved with an Optimist Club for a different reason. Perhaps before we can solve the problem of membership decline, we need to put our personal beliefs aside in order to understand what the organization truly is.

Optimist International is a network of autonomous Optimist Clubs that develop fellowship in order to perform community service projects on a local level with an emphasis on projects that recognize, involve or celebrate children.

If this were a business model, we might say that Optimist International is the franchiser and each club is the franchisee. Optimist International leases the relationship to the local clubs via membership dues. It then helps develop leaders by delivering training through a district structure and suggests a number of programs in which Optimist Clubs may choose to participate.

However, this organization does not run a business model. It runs on a membership association model which means volunteers are directing the cause. Volunteers are the franchisers and the trainers as well as the franchisees and the trainees.

Moreover, volunteers are the leaders and the followers in this relationship-based oligarchy.

Volunteers have different motivations than professionals. First, their involvement may be quite selfish. In a list compiled by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc and published at, motivations to volunteer, it is easy to see how "to become an insider," "to feel proud," and "to build your resume," among others, might be seen as selfish.

Second, their skills are diverse. Unlike a professional setting where skills are developed and utilized in order to advance the company where they work and thereby their compensation, volunteers join organizations in order to advance their own knowledge and abilities without remuneration. That can lead to a mismatch when those who are deemed trainers are perceived less qualified than those who are receiving training.

Third, the time to lead is short. When a volunteer rises to the top role in a membership association, their tenure in that role is generally one year. One can imagine how it would be difficult to affect change in that little time. That is why the culture must change along with the leader who is on the rise.

Membership organizations do this poorly and believe me, many corporations have difficulty with this as well. In Corporate Culture: Illuminating the Black Hole, James Want explains that corporate culture is important to the overall effectiveness of an organization. He identifies seven typical cultures: predatory, frozen and chaotic are deemed the worst; service and new age cultures are deemed the best; and falling in the middle are the relationship-based political and bureaucratic cultures most often seen in the membership organization structure.

According to Want, the latter are relationship-based cultures. The political culture is a "who you know" culture while the bureaucratic culture keeps people in their place based on where their position falls on the organization chart. Since a volunteer has little to gain for advancing through the ranks, the will to buck the system may be lacking. In this instance, culture and the  flow of advancement may be driving Optimist International and other service organization into an inevitable downward spiral as new associations are started that thrive in an open culture environment.

There are no easy solutions to the problem of declining membership in service organizations, but I firmly believe that the path begins with communications and engagement. Those who are interested in seeing Optimist International and its counterparts survive and prosper will participate in the conversation. In this way, we'll move ever-so-slightly and slowly towards an open culture, one that allows everyone to be informed, contribute and lead, that has been deemed most successful for growth.

September 6, 2014

Make a difference: Join an Optimist Club

Make a Difference Optimist Club
As I continue to mature and grow older (it is inevitable), I am acutely aware of the fact that I have not had children. There is not anyone younger than me running around with my genes. How will I leave my legacy, my mark on the world?

I know that I have done many good things for many communities as a member of an Optimist Club. I have made a difference because I've empowered others to make a difference for their children and the cities where they live. My legacy will be the work I have given through my Optimist Club.

For example, four years ago, I helped start the Middleton Area Optimist Club. Like most new Optimist Club projects, it was slow to get going, but we chartered with more than 30 people. That's the good news. At the turn of the administrative year, about half of those people quit. That's the bad news.

However, this challenge brought an opportunity to make a difference. Fifteen individuals remained enthusiastic about their ideas to bring good things to Middleton. As a rural town outside of the Boise MSA, they longed for more activities that they could do at home without having to drive thirty or more miles to participate.

The group decided to host Free Movies in the Park. They collaborated with the Parks and Recreation District to purchase a big screen and video equipment. They enlisted 12 theater screen advertisers and community advocates to cover the movie licensing and on September 12, 2014, they will conclude the third season of Free Movies in the Park by hosting "Frozen" along with a Family Fun Fair.

The Middleton Area Optimist Club has made a difference. By completing their goal to create more activities for families in Middleton, the club has made the community more cohesive, generated more partnerships, and inspired the City to pursue initiatives to do more of the same.

The Middleton Area Optimist Club has also grown to more thirty members again and it has developed many more activities for the community. The Middleton Area Optimist Club makes a difference every day as do I, as a member of this special group.

That's why I encourage you to join an Optimist Club so that you too can make a difference every day. Do this and begin to build your legacy through the good works of an Optimist Club.

Find an Optimist Club here  or let me know if I can help you get a new Optimist Club in your community by sending me an email message here.

Image courtesy of  Far Reach at 

August 31, 2014

Why would someone want to join an Optimist Club?

Why would someone want to join an Optimist Club?

The reasons are many including:

  • Friendship
  • To make a difference in my community
  • To share lunch, breakfast or dinner with like-minded individuals
  • To help children
  • To recite the Optimist Creed

But the real truth is that we join Optimist Clubs because it makes us feel good. When we get together with other like-minded people and share a meal, we make friends and develop positive projects that make a difference in our community and that, my friends, feels good.

Find an Optimist Club near you and join today so that you can feel good too.

If you don't see one near where you live or work, let me know and I'll help you get a new Optimist Club started in your community.

August 23, 2014

Positive thoughts, deeds and people are the purpose of an Optimist Club

experienceoptimism.orgDuring the first business session at the Optimist International Convention, the immediate past president and president-elect, representing the board of directors, came on the stage to suggest that Optimist International should be restructured.

They gave statistics about the membership decline and without explaining why any of this would help, they asked those assembled to consider four options for the future:

  1. Do nothing - continue along the same lines and watch the membership dwindle away.
  2. Restructure the organization into regions, eliminating the district administrative structure.
  3.  Allow Optimist Clubs to opt out of the district structure thereby achieving the second option eventually.
  4. Send us your ideas. 

Most at the convention were dumbfounded. We know that membership is slipping. We know that our districts are ineffective. We know that there is not a magic bullet that would address membership decline or Optimist International and other service clubs would have already found it. But what we do know about our service club of choice is that it is one of positive thoughts and actions.

As Optimist Clubs, we share optimism and none of that spirit was coming from the stage that morning. As we looked about at others' faces and spoke in the halls afterward, we said, don't they get it? The problem is communication! Optimist International has a problem communicating with its members and when it does decide to enlighten its membership it does so with flourish and bravado as if those who came up with an idea are the only ones who have ever addressed it. There is no engagement, only orders and expectations.

If I write to with my ideas, it will be to suggest better communications and a strategic public relations plan. I will also say, keep optimism alive, at all times. The greatest benefit of belonging to an Optimist Club is to be uplifted by the positive spirit of others who share similar goals for making their communities a better place to live. That begins with positive people at the top.

August 8, 2014

Find a new friend
I've been told that people, especially Gen X and Ys, aren't joiners. Technology has replaced face-to-face gatherings as we connect online and share crazy pictures, stunts, and yes, #selfies.

But let me tell you, nothing replaces the camaraderie of a service club. When you meet with people regularly to discuss how you might improve your community, you make friends and soon you realize that it is not just your community that is being improved, it's your life, and your family's life, that is benefiting the most.

Coming together with others in an Optimist Club will help you maintain a positive attitude. The service that you provide will nurture your community and the friends you make will nurture your soul.

Find an Optimist Club near you and don't just visit - join! If you don't find a club near you on this list, please send me a message and I'll work with you to help get one going in your neighborhood.

July 31, 2014

Ken Garner, Optimist International President 2014-2015 answers the question: Who Am I?

People draw meaning from different parts of any learning activity in which they take part. The 2014 Optimist International Convention was one such event. It inspired the attendees with stories from young Austin Gatus about not giving up and working through life-threatening medical complications. Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series shared a message of personal leadership and challenged every individual to help the organization grow by recruiting one new member. There were governance issues presented, discussed and resolved and a number of sessions to train members to be successful in their leadership roles.

And then there was this. Ken Garner, President, Optimist International, 2014-2015 took the stage and wowed the audience with his energy. He even included a song. Please take 25 minutes to enjoy his speech and be sure to stay tuned until the end so that you can understand, just like you, Ken Garner is an optimist.

Who Am I? 

July 27, 2014

Optimist Clubs encourage good communication skills with scholarship contests

optimist international scholarship contests
Can you believe it? Children head back to school in three to four weeks or less. While you scratch your head wondering how that can be possible, let me tell you about the Optimist International Scholarship Contests for 2014-2015.

All Optimist International Scholarship contests begin at the club level. Following rules determined by Optimist International and a timeline set by the district based on those rules, Optimist Clubs invite students to participate in essay and oratorical contests.

The theme for the Optimist International Essay Contest for 2014-2015 is "Optimism Should be a Priority." It is open to students under the age of 19 who have not yet graduated from high school or the equivalent. Find out more, including a club planning guide here: Optimist International Essay Contest.

The theme for the Optimist International Oratorical Contest for 2014-2015 is "How My Optimism Will Help Me Press on to Greater Achievements of the Future." It is open to students under the age of 19 who have not yet graduated from high school or the equivalent and who are educated in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean. Find out more including a club planning guide here: Optimist International Oratorical Contest.

The Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) for 2014-2015 will also address "How My Optimism Will Help Me Press on to Greater Achievements of the Future." It is open to students through grade 12 in the United States and Canada, to CEGEP in Quebec and grade 13 in the Caribbean, who are educated in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean. Find out more including a club planning guide here: Optimist International CCDHH.

Now is the time to get the topics to your schools. Those who teach English, public speaking or theater arts, among others, may include the contests in their lesson plan if they know early enough about the topic and the scoring method. Counselors and others may also encourage students to participate. Get the word out there! Optimist International Scholarship Contests rock!

July 17, 2014

Dystopian optimism

Continuing with the belief that the Optimist International media library needs to be increased, at the international convention, Optimist International asked vice president-designates to produce a video on behalf of their regions. They shared the videos with one another and they are now slowly reaching others.

The first one shown here was produced by Jan Oord Graves of the Southwest District. Using the tune from "What does the Fox Say?" 11-year-old Valeria Jauregui sings "What our Creed says!" while projects and fellowship of our club members are shown on the screen like a photo album.


With a different approach, Ed Murphy of the West Coast Region takes us on a dystopian journey before bringing us back to optimism. His message, "Reverse it", reminds us that Optimist International is only a force for good because of the personal involvement of each member. Without that personal involvement, it might fade away.

When I first watched Ed's video, I planned to write an article about leading with optimism. Even for emphasis, telling the world that the organization is doomed is probably not the best approach for an optimist or an Optimist Club member. I realize that he was going for shock value and I applaud the creativity, but it would be quite easy for a viewer to click away and not hear the positive message that reverses the negative thinking. I told him that I would probably not publish the video on my blog.

After receiving Jan's video, I decided to take the risk and publish Ed's video at the same time. The videos show the different approaches that Optimist International volunteer leaders use when reaching out to others. One emphasizes the status quo. The other shakes us up and asks where are we going and how will we get there.

Both send valuable messages and are a timely lead-in to a conversation that the Optimist International Board of Directors asked its member clubs to consider. Optimist International has asked, for the purposes of growth and financial sustainability, can we continue with the status quo? This is a topic for another post, but think about it, friends. Where are we headed? How will we get there? Are we being responsible stewards of the Optimist International legacy or do we need to make some major structural changes now for the future?

July 16, 2014

South Side Optimist Club wins #ReelOptimism contest

In an effort to increase its media collection and to promote what it means to be an Optimist Club member, Optimist International and the Optimist International Foundation recently hosted a video contest for #ReelOptimism.

Optimist Club members were quite enthusiastic with their responses when asked to complete the sentence, "The greatest thing about being an Optimist is...".

The #ReelOptimism winner was revealed at the Optimist International Convention (#OIConv14) on July 12, 2014. Congratulations to the South Side Optimist Club of Fort Wayne, Indiana for your winning entry and kudos for your inspirational fellowship.

July 7, 2014

A woman to lead

I hope that I don't offend you with a general observation that I am going to make: service clubs are famous for promoting old men. Similar to when you look at corporate organizational structures, when you look at the boards of directors and officers at club and international levels, the men far outnumber the women.

Optimist Club YanktonNonetheless, I am still surprised when I run across an Optimist Club that has just installed its first female president. Kudos this morning to the Morning Optimist Club of Yankton, South Dakota and president Lisa Berry.

Lisa is shown here making a donation to the Yankton Baseball Association. The club is an active supporter of youth sports and education in the community and in the past year has donated almost $25,000 to academic and athletic programs. It also contributes to leadership programs including Boy Scouts and the Boys & Girls Club, among others.

Working on leadership within its core has been on the club members' minds. According to member Jacob Hoffner, the club has been encouraging Lisa to take the reins for many years. Her accepting this new role has been accompanied by a younger set joining the Optimist Club. Boasting ten new members thus far, the Morning Optimist Club of Yankton now has 99 members.

Good luck in your growth, Optimists. Thank you for your service. And best wishes to Lisa and the many more women that will follow in her footsteps.

Photo credit:

July 4, 2014

An avenue of flags to unite the community

Bob Burkman, member, Optimist Club of Centerville, Ohio says that if there is one thing that can unite a community, it's the US flag. Doing what Optimist Clubs do best - bring people together in a sense of community, the Centerville Optimist Club placed 1,000 flags today making an Avenue of Flags for the 4th of July celebration. According to Fox News, more than 75,000 visitors will be drawn to Centerville today to celebrate the Americana Festival.

You'd better believe those flags will be front and center. Well done, Optimists! That's a great way to inspire patriotism in the community. Happy Independence Day to all!.

July 2, 2014


Linda Vaught Jackson optimist
I'm happy to announce that my bid for Vice President, West Coast Region, Optimist International was fulfilled. I received word from International President Ron Huxley that I was elected by my peers to become vice president-elect, taking the official office on October 1, 2015.

If you are an Optimist Club member, please accept my sincere appreciation for your support. 

If you are not an Optimist Club member, please let me encourage you to find an Optimist Club near you and get involved. 

The role of the vice president is largely diplomatic. It provides information from Optimist International to district leaders in an effort to motivate them to build new clubs and add new members. Over recent years, it has also become a teaching role, helping with education on leadership and program development for members of Optimist Clubs. 

My goal is to expand this position to be more involved with communications. I will endeavor to build a model for two-way symmetrical internal communication to occur between Optimist International and its component stakeholders and a similar model for external communication to occur between Optimist Clubs, Districts and Optimist International and the general public. 

It's going to be fun and with any luck at all, it will also be transparent and authentic. Please know those are not buzzwords; they are my road map to an open culture. I hope you join with me as we press on to the greater achievements of the future. 

June 30, 2014

Online voting is closed

June 30, 2014 ... The first online elections for Optimist International officers ended about two hours ago. I'm not sure how I thought I would feel at the end of this race, but I can tell you now that I'm a little anxious and ultimately relieved.

The polling window was 30 days - the entire month of June. However, candidates in contested races began campaigning on April 1. Now in a national election, there are a number of different positions one can take that will generate supporters and detractors, but in an organization that represents service clubs, there is only so much one can say. The primary message was simply to vote and in order for that to happen, we had to ensure the email address on record with Optimist International was correct for every Optimist Club president.

In the West Coast Region, I can say that there were probably less than 40 Optimist Clubs that were unable to cast ballots. Some had no email on file and some were incorrect. We did our best to get those whose emails were incorrect corrected; however, the others were probably left out. I'm not sure how Optimist International addressed them.

For my analysis, I will say that it's been an experiment in the use of social media among Optimist Clubs. I will also say that I don't really believe that Optimist International was at a point that it should have conducted the experiment. There was a great amount of strategic communication that should have taken place before this endeavor began. Optimist Clubs should have received direct, written communication about the process far enough in advance that they could have corrected their emails and paid their outstanding financial obligations.

Most important, Optimist International should have created a printed and online bulletin that introduced the candidates for office. In the past, it has done this, but this year, it relied on the online candidates' pages created for that purpose. The pages were helpful, but available only to those who were made aware of them largely by the candidates themselves.

In conclusion, it was a good effort and I'm glad I threw my hat into the ring to participate. Like the first time for anything, there are things that can be improved. They say we'll know the results tomorrow, July 1, and I am thinking only of the best; but whatever the outcome, I sincerely appreciate those who have shown me support.

And I hope that Optimist International will look to the candidates in this historic election to advise changes in the coming years.

June 28, 2014


It's been trending on social media channels since being published on You Tube on June 26, 2014, but in case  you haven't had the opportunity to watch #LikeAGirl, please do so now.

With this video, Proctor and Gamble's Always becomes the latest brand to send a message that empowers young women by raising awareness about how the things we say may hurt.

"It's humiliating," remarks one young lady in the interview and she is right. On or off the playground, the words sting even though being a girl is a really good thing. After all, we make up 50% of the population and life can't go on without us. No matter your age, why would you want to insult your mother, sister, friend or future significant other?

According to William B. Irvine, a professor of philosophy at Wright State University, we insult each other because it's part of the social hierarchy game. As social beings, we're given to insult in order to establish dominance and we're drawn to respond in order to improve our sense of self-worth.

Irvine explains that the best way to address this game is to be a pacifist. Don't be drawn in by the insult; move on. Great advice if you are an adult, but if you are a youngster of 10 or 12 years, being told repeatedly that you act a certain way and that way is inferior has a way of imprinting upon one's psyche.

The answer is not to overlook the bad behavior of others who are trying to establish social dominance whether they be male or female. The answer is for caring adults to intercede and demonstrate that while some have different skills and abilities, we are all equal.

Sounds like a need and a plan for an Optimist Club to me.

June 27, 2014

Reasons to smile

I created a board on Pinterest that I labeled "Smiles." My thought was to tuck away things that made me smile when I looked at them, but it quickly evolved into more. As well as tongue-in-cheek humor, it features some great smiles from children, animals and adults, too. It has a few bad puns and few good jokes.

It's Pinterest, so it I'm always adding to it and what I've found is that smiles are not only optimistic, they are addictive. You can't help but give them away. I encourage you to take a look and then share your smile and your optimism with others today and every day.

June 23, 2014

Monday optimism

It's Monday morning, June 23, 2014, and yes, those online elections for Optimist International continue to be my news of the day. However, as I wandered the streets of Boise this morning looking for a quiet, yet pretty place outdoors to film this short video clip, I realized just how optimistic Monday mornings are.

Cars are buzzing about, delivery trucks are backing-in to place as they make their rounds to restaurants and businesses, and construction workers in their hard hats are taking new buildings to new heights. Most impressive are the people as they move in and out of office buildings filled with energy and great ideas.

Mondays are often ridiculed for they take us away from our weekend leisure activities; however, I believe they should be praised. Monday might be the most optimistic day of the week for it offers hope for the full week of achievement ahead.

And today I hope that your Optimist Club will participate, if it hasn't already, in the first online elections for Optimist International officers. I am a candidate for Vice President of the West Coast Region. I sincerely appreciate your support. Thank you.

June 22, 2014

Positive Policing recognized in Santa Barbara

Optimist International's motto is "Friend of Youth." The motto is one of the most celebrated reasons for belonging to an Optimist Club, preceded only by the Optimist Creed and the fellowship of sharing community service with others.

Many Optimist Clubs form special bonds with the law enforcement officers of the community and partner with them on projects like bike safety events, anti-bullying presentations, and drug and alcohol prevention programs, among other things. Many take time to give special recognition during a Respect for Law Program that recognizes the police officers for their service.

The Optimist Club of Santa Barbara recently went above the service angle to recognize the officers in their community for "positive policing." According to club president Chuck Champlin,  Officers Jon Reyes and Kyle Lowry, and Sgt. Ed Olsen performed acts during 2013 that made them stand out among their peers for their positive actions. Read the full story here. 

Santa Barbara Optimist Club awards Positive Policing Award
As Optimist Clubs strive to share positive actions and attitudes with others, the recognition is a perfect way to share that vision with others. Congratulations to all.

Photo credit: Lara Cooper, Noozhawk


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