Optimist Julie Brock presents a $500 check to Mission Marshall Director Misty Scott. 91 pounds of food donations were also collected for Mission Marshall.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met Nov. 20, in Hutchins Hall of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Marshall. Optimist Le Ila welcomed all, especially their speaker, Misty Scott, and new and prospective members — John Fortune, Isabel Martinez and Janie Moore. Fortune pitched in photographing the birthday party for foster kids and Martinez was present as a Spanish language interpreter even before finishing their membership paperwork. And, when Moore heard that the organization was sponsoring the party, she came to President Le Ila and said she wanted to help: “I love any work that involves kids,” Moore said and that she is seriously considering joining.

Optimist Richard Magrill was asked to present Director Misty Scott.

Magrill noted many were familiar with the Food Pantry, but, Scott was asked to update the club members on the programs for early childhood literacy.

She began by noting the physical aspect of working with children and then emphasized, “it is also spiritual, and while the work of the Food Pantry meets peoples physical needs where they now are, our literacy programs address the future — being able to read sets us free!”

The Imagination Library sponsored by Dolly Parton’s foundation is one means of making a brighter future for kids. For $25 a year, one preschool child gets a book a month.

“Mission Marshall puts $1,200 a month into this effort and we are constantly hitting the area day cares and preschools. We also have online sign-ups and my husband, Glenn, who works in the IT department at ETBU keeps track of the kids on Google maps. That’s how we know that this effort is primarily reaching low income kids,” Scott said.

Next she spoke about Read to Ride — a program that has stirred statewide interest including from the Governor’s office.

“It began right here in Marshall when one of our board members asked the question, ‘What if we give bikes to encourage reading?’” Scott said. If a child is not reading ‘on level’ in third grade, that kid will probably not graduate from high school and that in turn seriously limits life prospects.

“Read to Ride offers a bicycle to any 3rd grader that increases her or his reading level and this coming May will complete our third year. The first year we gave away 268 bicycles and last year 423. They are given out the week before Memorial Day. Streets are blocked off at each elementary school and the awards part is brief. Then the kids get to ride (and some have never ridden a bike before!). The cooperation of the Marshall ISD has been a major factor in this success,” Scott said.

“When I went the first year to talk to 3rd graders a little boy asked, ‘How are you going to pay for all those bicycles?’ and I told him that the community loved him and God loves him and the money would be provided,” Scott recounted. Christus Good Shepherd Hospital partners with Mission Marshall so the needed safety helmets are half price.