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Optimists plan a return to Lake Orion

July 07, 2010 - Interested in helping Lake Orion's young people become the best they can be?

A new Optimist Club – forming now in Lake Orion – is looking for members.

"Lake Orion is a large enough community to get a strong club going," said Roger Diederich of the Clarkston area Optimist Club. "We need 25 members to start a new club; we're about halfway there."

The Clarkston club, Diederich explained, is sponsoring the new Lake Orion Club - assisting in its formation - just as the Rochester Optimist Club sponsored a new Clarkston chapter back in 1986.

In order to get the word out and answer questions from the community, an informational meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m., Monday, July 12 at Poppyseed Bakery on Flint Street in downtown Lake Orion.

According to Optimist International website, the association of more than 2,900 Optimist Clubs around the world – including 105 in Michigan – are dedicated to "Bringing Out the Best in Kids."

The gist? Maintain an upbeat attitude and conduct positive community service projects aimed helping and empowering youth in a variety of ways.

Each club, Diederich said, operates with the autonomy and flexibility to determine specific needs within its own community and tailor programs and projects to meet those needs.

"We're looking for civic minded individuals who want to see the community grow," said Diederich, noting the former Lake Orion/Oxford club disbanded several years ago.

The new group will cater only to Orion area youth, working in tandem with local schools to provide activities aimed at helping youth develop to their full potential.

"We have the school district's full support for this effort," said Diederich, noting several representatives from Lake Orion Community Schools have already signed on as Optimist Club members. With district budgets dwindling, he said, the Optimist Club helps ensure continuation of enrichment activities and sports and recreation opportunities.

"We've put about half a million dollars back into the community during the past 20 years," he said.

Optimist International officially sponsors a number of programs, including the Childhood Cancer Campaign, Internet Safety, the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships and the organization's scholarship contests (Essay Contest, Oratorical Contest and Communication Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing).

In addition, Optimist International encourages involvement in other community activities like Respect for Law/Promotion of Non-Violence, Tri-Star Sports Skills Challenges, Youth Appreciation and Youth Safety.

While it participates in many of the international programs, Diederich also cited community-specific projects in Clarkston as an example of what Lake Orion Optimists could accomplish: The group has recently co-sponsored a spray park, purchased and installed playground equipment, and provided $8,000 in scholarships to Clarkston students.

It also charters seven youth clubs – four in elementary schools and one in the community's middle, junior high and high school.

"We also partner with other community groups," said Diederich, a past president of the Clarkston area Optimist Club, who's also served as district club-services chairman. Currently, he holds the title of historian and new club-builder. "We did a project with our local Rotary Club and collected 850 pairs of socks to go with the shoes they collected during their shoe drive."

Those who decide to sign up for the new Lake Orion club will be asked to fill out a membership application and pay initial dues of $41. The required $400 charter fee will be paid by the Clarkston Optimists.

Regular dues will depend on club membership; Clarkson Optimists currently pay about $143 annually, Diederich said, noting the organization's 501c4 status allows a $75 write-off as a legitimate tax deduction.

His own experiences, Diederich explained, drive him to keep the organization going strong through the establishment of new clubs.

"Being so deeply connected to the community through the Optimists Club, and watching different kids flourish and bloom has been very gratifying through the years," he said. "Especially when they come back years later as adults and tell me how it helped them in ways they didn't realize at the time."

Once the new Lake Orion club has 25 members, an Optimist field representative will come out to swear in officers; a charter banquet will follow.

As the sponsoring club, Diederich said, the Clarkston area Optimists have an obligation to help with the first Lake Orion club activity, whether it be a recreation or recognition, and also with the first fund-raiser.

"We'll provide plenty of follow-up and follow through after the club is organized," he said.

The next informational meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m., Monday, July 12 at Poppyseed Bakery on Flint Street in downtown Lake Orion.

For additional information prior to the meeting, please contact Roger at 248-625-5915 or Don Brose at 248-736-8833.

For more information about the Optimists visit www.optimist.org

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