Optimist Ray Lawson presents a plaque to MJHS 8th grader Darrell Johnson in December 1960. This marks the Optimist’s first monthly recognition of an MISD student.

The Noon Optimist Club met online April 14 under the leadership of Vice President Julie Brock, Secretary Melissa Al-Ahmadi and Treasurer Michele Fuller.

Following their meeting, Optimist Richard Magrill checked with President Ned Calvert Friday, April 16, and his wife Sarah’s pulmonologist sees slow improvement. She is at Christus-Good Shepherd in Longview and was taken off the ventilator on Monday and is receiving 60 percent of her oxygen through her trach. All of the Optimists are keeping her and all those struggling with Covid in their prayers.

Last year the pandemic prevented Marshall Optimists from having lunch with the last four Young Texans (April and May) of the 2019-20 school year and so far it has kept them from lunch with all of those for 2020-21. But that lack is about to be replaced with a first-ever dinner with this year’s 18 recipients on Monday, April 26 and club members are busy arranging for the event. Monetary grants of $500 to three of this year’s young men and three of this year’s young women will also be given at the dinner.

One part of the celebration, suggested by the Rev. Rusty Rustenhaven, will be a 25-page booklet containing all the names we have of the MISD students honored since Boys of the Month began in 1960.

The first Boy of the Month was Darrell Johnson, an 8th grader whose photo with Optimist Ray Lawson was printed in the Jan. 10, 1961 News Messenger. Optimist John Fortune retrieved and cleaned up the photo as best he could.

Back then, Darrell was active in school events, church activities and Boy Scouts. In fact, he was an Eagle Scout. He also carried a paper route for the News Messenger!

Recognizing Boys of the Month was an activity encouraged by Optimist International.

The first African-American Boy of the Month was Marvin Earl Washington Jr. in 1969. He was later a Young Texan in 1964. Marvin died in 2004 but is lovingly remembered as a loyal friend and excellent musician by classmates at MHS.

Five years later, in December 1974, Melissa Lynn Lane would be the first Girl of the Month. Recognition of Junior High Boys and Girls was not mentioned for 1988 to 1994, then in 1995 just a few were named as students of the month. There was a decade or so lapse until September 2008 to 2009 when there were Junior Young Texans and Texannes honored.

In all, since 1960, there should have been about 600 Junior Highs honored for which we have the names of more than 260.

Unlike Boys and Girls of the Month, Young Texans (and later Texannes) was a home grown honor developed by Optimist Clubs in the state. Entrants in the statewide contest were nominated each month and if they won in the zone for their club they advanced to the district. The district winner(s) competed at the state level in their month. If they became the state Young Texan for their month they went on to compete with the other twelve monthly state winners for the honor of Young Texan of the year. Ronald Rogers, Lonnie Sibley Jr., and Stuart Agnor Jr. all competed at the state level but no nominee from Marshall was ever selected Young Texan of the year.

After Stuart Agnor did not succeed in 1972 (he had a most impressive resumé) Marshall Optimists decided to limit their involvement in the Young Texans program to local recognitions, although local nominees were still eligible to compete in the higher levels if they wished. M’liss Berry (who would later become the wife of Optimist Rick McMinn and mother of December 2001 Young Texanne Jaclyn McMinn) became the first Young Texanne in November of 1976.

In all there are more than 1,100 Young Texans and Texannes of which we have the names of some 600.

Optimist Le Ila Dixon shared good news this week from Manasquan, N.J concerning Jersey Mike’s Subs and customers across the country who rallied to raise an incredible $15 million to help more than 200 charities nationwide during the company’s 11th Annual Month of Giving in March. Charity recipients included hospitals, youth organizations, food banks and more.

Jersey Mike’s locations nationwide accepted donations throughout the month, building to March 31, Day of Giving, when more than 1,900 restaurants donated 100 percent of sales, not just profits, to local charities.

This fundraising total is double the amount raised in 2019 when the company donated $7.3 million to local charities.

“The results are even more meaningful this year,” says Le Ila, “as the Day of Giving celebrations were cancelled last year due to the pandemic.” (Since Month of Giving began in 2011, Jersey Mike’s has raised more than $47 million for local charities.)

“We really hoped to do well this year after the disappointment of having to cancel last year’s Day of Giving, and the outpouring of support from across the country is truly inspiring,” said Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike’s Founder & CEO. “We are filled with gratitude and admiration for our customers, franchise owners, and team members who have helped these charities in such a big way, now, when they need it more than ever.”

Cancro, who bought his first sub shop at age 17, credits two local businessmen in Point Pleasant Beach where he grew up — Jack Baker of Baker’s Lobster Shanty and Bob Hoffman of Hoffman’s Ice Cream — with showing him the importance of giving unconditionally to the community. One of Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving commercials featured Hoffman.

“Giving…making a difference in someone’s life” has been the mission of Jersey Mike’s from the beginning.

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