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May 16, 2006 > Attitude is everything

Attitude is everything

by Lance Dwyer

When an organization aims to counter the social dilemmas of their community, one philosophy seems to fit best: optimism.

And thus from a time when the introduction of industrialization and urbanization brought with it increased crime and poverty, an organization most appropriately named the Optimist club was born.

The purpose of the club aims to "develop optimism as a way of life."

The original Optimist club was founded in Buffalo, NY in 1911 and since then more than three thousand clubs throughout the world have been chartered. The Optimist club made the decision to expand internationally after World War I in 1919 and was able to establish their first chapter outside of the United States five years later in Toronto.

Optimists experienced their greatest degree of growth in the 1960s when membership increased exponentially. They also established a Stay-in-School program and expanded their involvement in high schools to include Octagon clubs.

Jim Reese, the president of the Optimistic club in Newark, said he became involved in the organization four years ago after witnessing its members' devotion to their community.

"I saw that the people are very dedicated and committed and I liked that about the club," said Reese. "These are people who don't expect a 'thanks' they do it because they want to help people."

Reese had been heavily involved in service work for several years before but was attracted to the Optimist club's focus on the youth. The Optimist club provides several events that cater to the needs of the youth both locally and on a national level.

In addition to holding events such as a Christmas party for Schilling Elementary school, the Newark club also raises funds to benefit DARE (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) and children's cancer research. Plans are already underway for an ice cream social fundraiser in the name of cancer research to be held in August.

Other beneficiaries of the Optimists' efforts are the Newark Memorial High School's drama department and Mervyn's back-to-school shopping program.

"Our motto is to be a friend of the youth, and that's what we do--provide a range of programs and assistance to organizations and schools that help youth," said Reese.

In the organization's official purpose they state that it is their intention to "aid and encourage the development of youth in the belief that the giving of one's self in service to others will advance the well-being of people, the community and the world."

Reese's personal motto for service fuels his motivation as president of the club, which undoubtedly trickles down to his members.

"It's great that I've been able to give something back," said Reese. "I feel very fortunate to have the education and the access to the opportunities that I had and I feel like I should give something back as a result of that."

The Optimist club is currently accepting applications for its annual scholarship program. Each year, the Optimist club awards six graduating high school students with a $1,000 scholarship for college.

For information regarding the scholarship program or on joining the Newark Optimist club send email inquires to or check out their website at

Meetings: Every Wednesday 7:30 a.m. at International House of Pancakes, 5687 Jarvis Ave., Newark.

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