With enough like-minded people on board that want to make a difference in their community, the Optimist club might make its return to Newton.
Richard May, a former governor of the Iowa District of Optimist International, said in a presentation to council members on April 17 the club focuses on bringing out the best in kids, the community and the people who join. The Optimist club is similar to already established clubs in town like Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis.
In the past, the Optimist club had a presence in Newton, but the group disappeared shortly after the closing of Maytag.
Volunteers would be needed to participate in the club, which then identifies and decides the needs of the community, and then works toward its goals. Training is also available for members through the Optimist Institute, which can instill professional leadership and organization skills, like how to run a meeting.
“It does an awful lot to build self-esteem and gives them the courage to go on and do other things,” May said. “I didn’t have that opportunity when I was a kid. I’m an extreme introvert. Being in front of a group of people was never a comfortable thing for me. But having gone through a lot of this stuff, it all helped.”
As the name suggests, the Optimist club has an upbeat outlook and maintains a commitment to create a more optimistic future for kids, which the organization says is what differentiates it from any other volunteer opportunity. Past clubs have sponsored youth sports leagues and oratorical speech contests.
“They can do all sorts of things whether it’s food drives, community clean-ups. They get to decide what their agenda is and what they want to do,” May said.
When established, the club would be able to fundraise for scholarships for students. The club has also provided service work for families in need, worked with schools to enhance education, tutored and mentored young people, coached youth sports teams and assisted disaster victims, among others.
Jim Boyd, director of strategic growth for Optimist International, has been a club member for the past 30 years or so. It is his job to facilitate growth of the organization. Boyd looks at the opportunity of establishing an Optimist club in Newton for the people who may not be involved in Rotary, Lions or Kiwanis.
“To give them another vehicle to test drive, if you will. To test drive through membership, getting involved, forming a second family of people who think like they do. They want to make — in this particular case — Newton a better place, not only for young people but for everybody,” Boyd said.
For Boyd, there is nothing better than getting a group of people together under one umbrella to strive to make their corner of the world a better place.
Anyone interested in joining the club can contact May at 641-990-6886.