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Optimist Club working to form Oxford chapter

August 10, 2011 - Interested in helping Oxford's young people become the best they can be?

A new Optimist club – forming now in Oxford – is looking for members.

"Oxford is a large enough community to get a strong club going," Don Brose, of the Clarkston and Lake Orion area Optimist Club said. Brose is also an international Vice President of Optimist International. "We need 25 members to start a new club, and we are well on our way to that number."

Clubs in Clarkston, Shelby Township and Lake Orion are working to sponsor the new club, just as the Rochester club sponsored a new Clarkston chapter in 1986.

In order to get the word out and answer questions from the community, informational meetings are scheduled every Monday morning at Chardonnay Restaurant on Lapeer Rd.

According to the Optimist International website, the association of more than 2,900 Optimist clubs around the world - including 100 in Michigan - are dedicated to "bringing out the best in kids."

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

Each club, says Dave Fries, past president of the Grosse Pointe Lakeshore Optimist Club, operates with autonomy and flexibility to determine specific needs within it's 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," Fries said.

While the former Lake Orion/Oxford club disbanded several years ago, the Lake Orion club was revived in the fall of 2010. This new Oxford group will cater only to Oxford area youth, working in tandem with local schools to help students develop their full potential.

"We have met with the Superintendent of Schools and have his support for this effort," Gail Toth, a local realtor and first new member of the club, said.

She noted the goal was having several representatives from Oxford Schools as members. The club is also working closely with the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department to determine the needs of the area.

With school district budgets dwindling, Optimist Clubs helps ensure continuation of enrichment activities and sports and recreation opportunities.

"We've put about $500,000 back into the Clarkston community during the past 25 years.

Optimist International officially sponsors a number of programs, including the Childhood Cancer Campaign, Internet Safety and the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships and the organizations 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, Internet Safety, Tri Star Sports skills challenges, oratorical and essay contests, youth appreciation and youth safety.

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

It also sponsors seven youth clubs - four in elementary schools and three in the community's middle, junior high and high school.

Those who sign up for the new Oxford club will be asked to fill out a membership application and pay initial dues of $45. The sponsoring Optimist clubs will pay the required $400 charter fee, which makes the club an official Optimist International affiliate.

Barry Burnham, past president of the Shelby Township Optimist Club stated how important it is to build new clubs to strengthen the Optimist organization.

"It is amazingly gratifying to see young people throughout different communities flourish and bloom due to the influence of a local Optimist club, especially as they grow into adults and tell about the wonderful Optimist influence that they had in their youth."

Once the new Oxford club has 25 members, an Optimist field representative will come out to swear in officers, and a charter banquet will follow. The sponsoring Optimist clubs have the obligation to help with the first Oxford activity and first fund-raiser.

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

Meetings will be held every Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. at Chardonnay Restaurant. The public is welcome to just show up. For additional information about the Oxford Area Optimist Club, please contact Brose at (248) 736-8833, or Fries at (313) 971-5458.

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

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