HumankindNESS-Building Community

By Jennifer Richardson
My husband and I have had the honor of serving as officers of clubs and civic organizations over the years, and one of these clubs was called the Optimist Club.

 Just before my husband Robert was to conclude his year at the helm of the local chapter, we attended the annual NOW (New Optimists Welcome) dinner during the first week of September. I have fond memories of the evening that he passed the gavel onto the next Optimist leader.

I am always happy to attend events with my sweetheart, and we arrived to an auditorium full of Optimists and their guests and we enjoyed meeting, chatting, and getting reacquainted with many delightful people. 

As we sat down to dinner, I thought of the numerous events we had engaged in during the previous twelve months as a result of our participation in this civic organization.

There was a Pumpkin race during an annual festival in our town square where decorated pumpkins entertained kids of all ages. I remembered watching my husband walk out the door on Easter Sunday to help provide an Easter egg hunt for the smallest citizens of our community.

I remembered conversations about a State-wide Youth Golf Tournament, and I smiled as I thought about the Optimist-sponsored art contest that Junior High students from my Art classes loved participating in; a couple of the winners were honored at an Optimist Club breakfast and were excited to see their pictures in the local paper.

My thoughts went back to the evening I attended a delicious Mostaccioli Dinner fundraiser hosted by the Optimists from which all proceeds were invested right back into our community for youth in our area.

The Christmas For Kids Dinner was a wonderful memory. There were presents for every child under the Christmas tree, dinner was served, holiday cookies were in abundance, and our own local judge led the crowd in the singing of Christmas carols.

And who could forget the annual fireworks display? Yes, that was our local Optimist Club at work as well. 

I enjoyed seeing my husband recognize local high school seniors and their families with the Optimist Outstanding Student Achievement Award. Each student received praise for their positive qualities and a check to assist them with their college plans.

I have a fond memory of sipping hot chocolate as Robert drove our family through the Christmas in the Park festivities to see the Optimist Club ‘Sing Along With Abe” display that depicted Abraham Lincoln leading a rooftop choir.

Along the way I remember conversations about the many guest speakers at the Optimist weekly meetings. Through the club we heard about local entrepreneurs, legal experts, coaches, teachers, administrators, judges, students, senior citizens, legislators, local community leaders and more.

These reflections stayed on my mind as the dinner plates were finished and we quieted down to listen to the NOW Dinner program.

The evening included a celebration of the many accomplishments of the fifty years that the local chapter of the Optimist Club had existed, and charter members were honored for their commitment to Optimist ideals.

The best moment of the night for me was listening to charter member and local builder Monte Siegrist talk about his involvement with the club and his incredible commitment to the part of the world in which he lives. Since 1946 he had designed and constructed almost 700 homes in his hometown. He had literally helped to build a city.

It is this pioneering spirit and desire to change the world one project at a time that embodies the Optimist ideals, which tell us to, “…think only the best, and work only for the best…”  

The program concluded and our evening became a flurry of photographs and farewell conversations. As usual, we were some of the last to leave. I took one last glance around the banquet hall. Tables, decorations, empty plates, the remnants of a good celebration for a great cause. And I was honored that we were able to have been part of it all. And so blessed to have lived in a place where community is important.

And all those amazing memories came from just one year of participation. That year, and many others, have taught us the beauty of working together toward building community. No one person can do all the work, but together we can make it all work. I encourage all to join in wherever help is needed. Ask around, find a civic organization that you can believe in, be a part of this important work. As you build memories, you will be building community. It is human kindness at its best.

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