Several residents took the first step toward building a Temecula branch of Optimist International group Wednesday evening at Temecula Creek Inn.
Present were representatives from the St. Louis, Missouri head office, Aaron Kaskowitz, and area representatives, including Lt. Governor of the Redlands chapter, and police officer Jack Kohlmeir, as well as citizens with questions on how to join and what the Optimist International group has to offer.
Membership to the organization costs $30 for processing fees, with dues (typically a quarterly fee of $15), and frequency of meetings (whether once a week, or once a month), to be decided by the Temecula board, once put into place.
“All who join in the first few meetings will have the opportunity to make decisions, and guide this group to the fundraising activities and programs that best fit your area,” Kohlmeir said.
Amidst an intimate setting at the esteemed golf resort, representatives offered a detailed discussion on what it means to volunteer for the Optimist International organization, followed by an in depth question-answer session.
First and foremost in the session was the repeated mission statement of the organization: to provide hope and positive vision to bring out the best in kids. How each chapter of this unique organization does that is ultimately up to its members.
The Optimists are looking for people of good character, people who care about their community, from all walks of life. Cursory background checks will be conducted by the national organization on behalf of its members.
“Each chapter is self-directed, while guided by the by-laws, and overall mission,” Former vice president Jim Oliver of Valencia, California said. “We have received much interest from the Temecula area, and with new partnerships from Law Enforcement, the Temecula School Board, and others, we hope to see tremendous growth in the area, and what programs we can offer the children of Temecula, Murrieta, and surrounding communities,” Oliver said.
Fundraising is a key element, and according to all present, the more diversity in the members, the more successful the club will be.
“Club members are anywhere from retired professionals, to stay- at-home moms. All have talent and resources that can contribute to making your chapter a success,” Oliver said.
Programs offered can vary with each chapter, as well, and according to Kohlmeir.
The Redlands chapter has put on annual successful programs for area children, ranging from swim meets at the University of Redlands to what they call the “Optimist Games,” a version of Special Olympics. At the forefront is the internationally renowned essay and oratory contests, which not only encourage kids to develop written and public speaking skills, but earns the top contestants scholarship monies as well.
“High school kids need service credits in order to graduate, and Optimist sponsored programs can help them earn those,” Oliver said. “All they need is encouragement to participate, and the appreciation that an organization like this offers.”
When asked what was the best part of being a member of Optimist International, member Larry James said, “This is a community service organization that focuses on you. What your community needs. And though networking isn’t why we do this, it is a natural vehicle for networking with like minded individuals.”
The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on March 21 at Temecula Creek Inn.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.
For more information, call 714-826-2432 or visit http://www.optimist.org