Special to the News Messenger

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met for a time of food and fellowship at Gucci’s at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29. That gathering was followed the next day by an informal lunch at Applebee’s with Optimist Jim Sanders, 2020-2019 Governor-Elect of the North Texas District. It was a time for dialogue about shared concerns, news of other clubs, and strategies for growth and service.

Optimist Jim shared a bit of his personal history. He is a long time member starting with a club in South Texas. Later, he joined the club in Burleson (south of Ft. Worth) and was active there for many years. When he moved to an area of Johnson County near Crowley, he looked for a club in which to serve and found none. He was counseled by the district that he could either start a new one or see if the one in Burleson might want to relocate. The latter option came to the fore and the relocated club decided to meet in Crowley, but it took the name Chisholm Trail Optimist Club because it would draw its membership from Johnson and two neighboring counties.

Last fall, Optimists Diane and Al Clark visited with the club and expressed the North Texas District’s commitment to us “as the only club left in East Texas.” That memory prompted Optimist Charles Dixon’s question of Jim, “Where is our nearest neighboring club?” He reported that there is one in Henderson meeting on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. It primarily concentrates on sponsoring athletic teams as a way of “bringing out the best in kids.”

Optimist Richard Magrill asked if clubs that met only twice a month had larger attendance than those meeting weekly? Sanders replied he did not believe that to be the case. In fact, he informed us that our size club was the norm and that on occasion the Chisholm Trail Club experienced attendance lower than ours. (They range from two to fifteen; we range from five to fifteen.) He did mention one of the metroplex area clubs that had a large regular attendance and met weekly at 6:30 a.m. Optimist Magrill said, “I could go for that meeting time!” But, Optimists Le Ila Dixon and Michele Fuller both nixed the idea of an early meeting time. As President Le Ila expressed it, “We were organized as the Noon Optimist Club of Marshall for a reason!”

Sanders shared that Chisholm Trail sponsors a JOI (Junior Optimists International) Club for youth and have found it to be a source for new members as parents of the kids join the adult club (at least for the period their kids are involved). Their JOI Club has around thirty members and engages in various service activities. One in particular is reading to kids in the daycare program on their school campus. “Kids helping kids,” he said, “that’s what its all about.”

President Le Ila shared our work with MISD Seniors (through the monthly Young Texans/Texannes program and the annual Student Mock Interview Learning Experience “SMILE”) and with elementary students through the Triple M Backpack Program which meets food needs over weekends. She said we were wanting to reach out to the Marshall Junior High for a way to serve kids there. “Maybe a JOI Club would be a good way to engage there.” “But,” she went on to emphasize, “we first want to hear from school administrators about needs they see with which we could help.”

We also shared some of the plans for our upcoming birthday party for kids in foster care in Harrison County. Sanders indicated that the Chisholm Trail club provides bags containing a do-it-yourself kit of birthday supplies for foster kids/parents.

Optimist Richard gave Sanders a brochure with pictures and personal comments from our eighteen Young Texan/Texanne MISD seniors for the 2018-2019 school year and President Le Ila noted that six of them received $500 grants at the Awards Assembly last May. Governor-Elect Sanders complimented our club on its work: “You’re very active!” Richard also shared with him recent articles from the Marshall News Messenger about our club. He was very complimentary. Somewhat ruefully, he said, “You are lucky to have a newspaper (Chisholm Trail does not!) and especially one which welcomes news about community organizations and their work.” To which, we all said, “Amen!”

Sanders encouraged us to attend district meetings and we explored the possibilities of having one in the East Texas area.

When we parted the rain that had washed over our feet on arrival was reduced to only a sprinkle but our enthusiasm for the work of Optimists was at full flood and we look forward to our Young Texans/Texannes next week and the future party for foster kids.