By JENNA FEAR
The Optimist Club is a relatively new installment in Lincoln County. Or a renewed one, to be more exact – around 10 years ago, there was a bustling Optimist Club, but it fizzled out in time.
Cindy Schwab, who just ended a three-year run as the lt. governor for the Optimist Club Eastern Missouri District in October, is the current president of the Optimist Club in O’Fallon and a member of the Lincoln County club.
She said that last year, she began expanding scholarship and other opportunities sponsored by the Optimist Club to kids in Lincoln County, and eventually she decided it would be best to just start up a club here.
Now, the Optimist Club is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary as a renewed effort in Lincoln County.
They hold meetings twice a month in the community room at the Troy Firehouse on Cherry Street on the first and third Mondays of the month at 6:30 p.m.
Optimist International is a global organization with local clubs all over the world.
The organization’s website, www.optimist.org, states the mission: “By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in youth, our communities and ourselves.”
The biggest focus of Optimists is to help children succeed in their communities. That’s what has kept Schwab involved for the 32 years she’s been a part of the organization; when she first began, she remembers working, going to evening classes at Lindenwood University, being a part of the Chamber of Commerce and a part of the church, but she still always found the time to be involved with the Optimists.
“I can always carve out time for the kids,” Schwab said.
Along with adult clubs, there are also clubs at a junior level, known as the Junior Optimist Club. There is currently a Junior Optimist Club at Winfield High School, and Schwab hopes to start one up in Troy schools as well.
Schwab says she sees the Junior Optimist Club as a place for kids who fit outside the lines of other school involvement like band or sports; it’s for kids who want to be involved but maybe aren’t interested in other clubs or don’t have the financial means available to be a part of them. But the Optimists Club isn’t reserved for just those kids; it brings opportunities that all types of students can embrace.
The Junior Optimist Club gives kids the opportunity to learn leadership and organizational skills within a group as well as to plan and experience charity and volunteer work, among other things. Some past projects of the O’Fallon Junior Optimist Club were making fleece blankets to donate to the Women’s Shelter for Domestic Violence and Abuse, roadside clean-up, visiting a nursing facility where they played games with residents, and organizing a meal at Ronald McDonald House. Many of these events happened with help from the adult Optimist Club in O’Fallon.
Two big efforts of the Optimist Club right now are two contests for kids to enter for a chance to win scholarships.
These are the essay and oratorical contests, which are now open to all applicants under 19 who live in areas with an Optimist Club.
The essay contest requires at least 700 words on the topic, “When all the world’s problems are solved, is optimism still necessary?” The winner at the District level will receive a $2,500 scholarship. Applicants must have their essays in by Jan. 25; the winner will be sponsored by the Optimist Club to move on to district competition.
The oratorical contest requires a four-five minute speech on the topic, “Is there a fine line between optimism and reality?”
The application for this contest is due Jan. 25 as well, but the speech doesn’t have to be presented until March 9 at the club-level contest. The winner of this will advance to the regional contest on April 7, where two winners will compete at the district contest on May 4.
There, the three top finalists will be awarded scholarships of $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000.
For more information on the scholarship contests or the organization, contact email@example.com. Other than the two big scholarship contests, the Lincoln County Optimist club is currently focused on spreading the word about what they do, gaining new members, and getting more students involved.