The Optimist Club of Henry County celebrated their charter with a banquet on Saturday, June 8, at Calvary Baptist Church, and are preparing for their first citywide service project “Avenue of Flags,” which will place flags along West Washington Street for Flag Day on Friday, June 14.
The Optimist Club of Henry County chartered on April 9. The banquet was an opportunity to celebrate the charter and get together with the fellow Optimist Clubs that helped the Henry County club charter — the Optimist Club of Washington and the Optimist Club of Burlington/West Burlington.
“It’s truly one of the best service projects we can do is bring a club to a new community,” said Rebecca Mona, of Des Moines, president of Optimist International. “It’s always truly energizing.”
Optimist International is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, Mona said, and she was honored to be in attendance Saturday night to see a new club chartered in this centennial year.
John Parrott, president of the Optimist Club of Solon in the 1970s and now member of the Optimist Club of Henry County, said the club is about doing anything and everything they can to create good citizens.
Parrott said that 100 percent of every penny the Optimist Club makes goes to the youth of the community. He would like to see the Optimist Club of Henry County raise money to send students to Camp Courageous and Special Olympics.
Chivonne Anderson, president of the Optimist Club of Henry County, said she joined because she believes in the mission of the Optimists, which is to value children and help them develop their full potential.
Anderson’s 17-year-old son is very involved with Youth for Christ Southeast Iowa, and she has watched him come out of his shell because of that program. She hopes the Optimists can be a support system for programs like Youth for Christ and other youth-oriented organizations.
Parnell Davis, with Youth for Christ Southeast Iowa, said he is excited about the Optimist Club, who hosted a joint Fishing Derby event with Youth for Christ at Oakland Mills Saturday afternoon, June 8.
“They share the same heart as Youth for Christ,” Davis said. “At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. I’m looking forward to partnering with anyone who has a heart to help young people.”
Paul Katsian, treasurer of the Optimist Club of Henry County, said he too points to Davis as a driving force in getting the Henry County Optimists chartered.
Katsian has been a volunteer with Youth for Christ of Southeast Iowa and saw an opportunity to “double down” on his investment in the youth of the community with the Optimist Club.
Alex Phelps, of Mt. Pleasant, is serving as the vice president of the Optimist Club of Henry County. With four kids of his own, Phelps said he is very excited to be a leader of the Optimist Club in his community.
“It’s a way to be more of a positive impact on our kids. I’m excited to see it grow,” Phelps said.
Rich Danielson, with the Optimist Club of Burlington/West Burlington, said that one of the most important things an Optimist Club can do is build another club, which was why he was at the charter banquet for the Optimist Club of Henry County Saturday night. Danielson has been a member of the Optimists since 1993.
Roughly 35 youth are impacted by a single member of the Optimist Club, Danielson said. The best way to reach more kids is to build more clubs.
Danielson’s club used to do a project with fifth grade students where the students would roll a feelings cube and whichever feeling the cube landed on, the students would get an opportunity to talk about.
Danielson said one little girl rolled the club and it came up sad. She opened up about the death of her father.
“That was the first time she had talked about it in a year,” Danielson said. “In the right setting, she had a way to deal with that tragedy in her life.”
The Optimist Club of Henry County will be launching their first big fundraiser, Avenue of the Flags, on Friday for Flag Day. The City of Mt. Pleasant approved the project during a city council meeting in May. The Optimist Club has already sold 60 flags that will be installed each year on Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day.
Money raised through Avenue of the Flags will go toward the youth of Henry County.
The Optimist Club of Henry County currently has 19 members. If interested in membership, email John Parrott at email@example.com or call 319-431-6998 or stop by Sanity Coffee House at 104 South Iris Street in Mt. Pleasant.