Optimist Club President Le Ila Dixon makes a special presentation to Dr. George Bennett, the club’s oldest member in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Optimists International.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met Wednesday, Jan. 8, in Hutchins Hall of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Marshall. President Le Ila Dixon convened with the ringing of the bell and led in prayer followed by the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag and the recitation of the Optimist’s creed. She welcomed all present, especially Optimist Ben Dickson who brought with him Rachel Hankins as his guest. Ben explained that he had been able to rearrange his schedule to be present and that Rachel would be with us to cover any absences.

At the club’s first business meeting of 2020, President Le Ila reminded the group that last year on June 19, the club joined with Optimists International in celebrating its completion of 100 years of service. She shared a picture of our oldest member George Bennett and noted that Dr. Bennett’s grandson Adam Adair, a student at East Texas Baptist University, is the club’s youngest member. “This year on Nov. 30 our Noon Optimist Club of Marshall will celebrate the completion of 75 years of service in Harrison County. We look forward to the events leading up to this anniversary,” she said.

Optimist Richard Magrill reported that he has been reading a centennial history by David E. Bruns about the early days of organized optimism. The first Optimist Club began Feb. 16, 1911, in Buffalo, New York. Five men met, started the club and focused “on doing business with friends.” “Fortunately,” writes Bruns, “the members of the Optimist Club of Buffalo soon realized that they also had a duty to help others.” The club began to host an annual Christmas party for underprivileged children. In fact, in December 1914 four hundred boys and girls attended a party where Santa made an appearance “handing out coats, boots, caps, skates, books and toys to the children.” By 1917, the Optimist Club of Buffalo had adopted “Make Children Happy” as the club’s slogan. [pp. 13, 17, Bringing Out the Best: the First Century of Optimist International (1919-2019), by David E. Bruns.]

Optimist Janie Moore said that it was the continuation of that focus on children and specifically last fall’s first ever birthday party for foster kids in Harrison County that attracted her to join. Optimist Richard Magrill noted that when he read about the Buffalo Club’s reaching out to kids with an annual Christmas party he was grateful to Optimists Julie Brock and Michele Fuller for presenting our club with the challenging idea of having the birthday party for foster kids. The group hopes it will develop into an annual event as well.

President Le Ila called on us to share our optimism. Ned Calvert said he was optimistic about the new year. Le Ila suggested that the group should be serious about implementing the Optimist Creed this year, especially the line: “Give every living creature you meet a smile.” She reported that no members had a birthday this week, but that Elvis Presley was born on this date in 1935. She also reported that today is National English Toffee Day in honor of which she brought homemade toffee for all.

Four items of business were announced. First was planning the club’s quarterly evening social for the last week of January. Optimists Charles and Le Ila Dixon invited all to a baked potato and chili bar at their home. Thursday, Jan. 30 at 5:30 p.m. was set as the time. The club was also advised to be thinking of Ben Dickson that week who will not be able to be present due to the expected arrival of a new baby!

Second, the price of lunch was discussed. It was agreed to use the honor system in reimbursing the club for lunch orders to provide maximum flexibility for members when ordering and for ease of tracking income and costs by the treasurer.

Third, initial planning for our annual S.M.I.L.E. Day (Student Mock Interview Learning Experience) for MHS Seniors was discussed at some length. All present were grateful that Optimist Ned Calvert has agreed to serve as this year’s general chair. He noted that he had several suggestions to enhance the day but that first we must get the date from MISD and ascertain if it will involve interviews in the morning only or if they will continue after lunch. Counselor Zack Davis was pleased with the flow of students last year when we finished in the morning and concluded with lunch. Optimist Julie Brock will liaise with the MHS Hospitality Class concerning lunch. Optimist Richard said we should stress attendance at the lunch in order to show appreciation for the students’ hard work and Optimist Michele noted that last year their efforts were especially well done!

Optimist Le Ila advised that any extra tables needed for the event will be supplied by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and that she will secure breakfast items for our interviewers. Discussion of door prizes and goody bags was postponed as was our fourth item: consideration of the treasurer’s report.

President Le Ila reported that January’s Young Texans will be with the club next week.