Marshall Assistant Fire Chief Joey Hudson joined the planning as chair of the deacons at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Marshall. He is shown with Optimist President Le Ila Dixon.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the Golden Corral meeting room. President Le Ila Dixon convened the meeting and asked Optimist Eric Wilburn to pray followed by the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag.

Optimist Le Ila welcomed all, especially our guest, Marshall Assistant Fire Chief Joey Hudson, chair of the deacons of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Marshall. He was present to facilitate planning for a “birthday party” for all the kids in foster care in Harrison County.

Optimists Julie Brock and Michele Fuller brought the idea of the party to the club as a result of an event held at Fuller’s church, Longview Missionary Baptist, which hosted such a birthday party in Gregg County earlier in the year.

Tonya Fuller (no relation to Optimist Michele) met with our club on two occasions to present the work of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and to explore the possibility with us. (She is the Region 4 Faith-Based Specialist for TXDFPS.) On her second meeting with the club, the members of the Marshall Ministerial Alliance (under the leadership of the Rev. Craig Vanbiber, pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church) were our guests.

Rev. Rusty Rustenhaven recently presented this need to the deacons of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He reported to Optimist Le Ila, that “the project was enthusiastically received and the diaconate looks forward to helping in the event.” He noted in particular that one deacon works for TXDFPS and another who with her husband was a foster parent many years ago before their own children were born were particularly strong in their support. The church agreed not only to provide the location but to actively sponsor and participate in the event. Tonya Fuller estimates that there are in excess of 140 children in foster care in Harrison County and she strongly encouraged the club to do an event. Her department will handle invitations to the children and families involved and provide other assistance.

Brainstorming brought forth numerous ideas of gifts, games andactivities. Optimist Le Ila recommended use of the church’s bouncy house and “nine in the air” (an elevated grid of PVC pipe where nine kids occupy squares and attempt to keep the ball from falling to the ground through their square). She also suggested soap bubbles, side walk chalk, and hula hoops (which she recently saw a group of kids using as a hopping challenge).

Joey Hudson indicated that there were no outside basketball goals, but that volleyball was available and that older kids could well enjoy participation in a nature scavenger hunt along the church’s wooded trail.

He also noted that there is a hanging tire which could be used for a football toss.

There was also discussion of pin the face on a scarecrow, bean bag tossing, face painting, relay races (with small pumpkins rather than eggs), pumpkin decorating (maybe turning them into turkeys), guessing the number of legos or candy corn in a jar, a bean bag toss and having a petting zoo. Optimist Charles Dixon cautioned that many of these activities depended on good weather and being outside, especially the petting zoo!

Cupcakes were promised and Optimist Richard Magrill made a plea for ice cream. He also suggested sitting around tables when the cupcakes were served and placing candles on those of the birthday celebrants to be lighted and blown out before “Happy Birthday” is sung.

Optimist Michele Fuller reminded us that TXDFPS had suggested that instead of actual gifts “goody bags” would be more manageable. These could be assembled for different age groups with those for older kids (Junior/Senior Highs) containing gift cards. (And speaking of birthdays, Michele was treated to a chorus in celebration of hers this coming Monday, Sept. 30.

Optimist Le Ila emphasized, “we are very excited about this opportunity to bring out the best in the kids of our county, and in fact, this will be a new venture for us as Noon Optimists and it is undertaken specifically in celebration of the centennial anniversary of Optimist International which is 100 years old this year!”

In a brief business session, the club acted on several items, including, on the recommendation of Optimist Ned Calvert, becoming a sponsor of the Marshall Prayer Force. At the conclusion of our meeting, Optimist Rusty Asaff presented to the club a double-sided banner which he had designed.