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Our Opinion: Optimizing our youth

August 20, 2001

Service clubs have long had the reputation as places for old white guys to get together to schmooze and tell bad jokes.

While that reputation may still hold at least some truth with some clubs, particularly one local service club, it is getting to be less and less the case for most service clubs. Even though most such clubs have become coed and ethnically more diverse many such clubs are suffering from declining membership, at least partially because of such reputations. Unfortunately, that is true of local clubs, too. Many are remaking themselves by returning to their original missions, which were serving their communities. Local Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions and other groups seem to be returning more and more to their chartered missions of service.

The Optimists, however, have long battled the overriding service club reputation by being a social club second and a service group first. The motto of the Optimists the world over is "friend of youth," and our two local Optimists clubs have been serving Imperial Valley youths since the clubs' inceptions.

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Now area Optimists are looking to create new clubs in the Imperial Valley, where many of our estimate youths truly need friends, mentors and programs. For many of our young people, poverty and despair are seen as likely futures. Role models can show young people that, with the right steps, a future can be sunny.

The Sunrise Optimist Club is leading the way in creating new Optimist groups, and the first local area targeted is Holtville. Holtville area residents appear to be optimistic about the prospect of having an Optimist club in their city, and all involved hope to see a club start there soon.

The Optimists also plan to start an evening club in El Centro and clubs in Brawley and Calexico. We hope to see enthusiastic responses there, too.

Many people like to talk about how dedicated they are to our youth. And they stop right there, with talk. Fortunately, there are many others in our community willing to coach teams, run scouting troops, get involved with church youth groups or help with police activities leagues. Those who have been all talk have the chance to actually do something by joining the Optimists. Those who have done something for our young people have the chance to do even more by becoming Optimists.

There are at least 30,000 kids in the Valley. Optimists, and others, can make many of their futures better.

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