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Friday, November 2, 2012

A new Optimist Club year gets underway

Two weeks ago, many Optimist Club and District leaders gathered in Hood River, Oregon for the first quarter district meeting. We launched the new year with Governor Larry Blackburn's commitment to fun. There was a talent show where DiAnne Wilson, Ms. Oregon Senior America sang her way into our hearts. We saw talent from others too including a rocking rendition of "Born to be Wild" from the sound-man extraordinaire Steve Andersen that brought many in the audience to their feet.

The Nightly News
Earlier in the day, Dustin and Kayleigh Godfrey shared some of the secrets to the success of the Twin Falls Optimist Club, now at 130 members and still growing. According to Dustin and Kayleigh, fun is what separates their club from all others. They demonstrated just how they keep people laughing with a version of "The Nightly News."

Of course there was business conducted at the meeting as well. Of great importance to the beginning of any administration, was the acceptance of the budget for the year. It was noted that the previous administration spent more than $13,000 of the cash that was transferred to them starting this year's treasury with only $16,000 and perhaps signalling a downward trend. Immediate past district secretary/treasurer Mary White pointed to loss in membership and increased expenses in the scholarship programs as reasons for the difference.

Obviously, the district hopes to regain members in the coming year, but there was great discussion about the scholarship program expenses which, budgeted at $7,300 in 2012-2013, is significantly higher (more than $5,000 higher) than the income that is collected to manage these programs. Until last year, the income and expenses have been close, and have not warranted additional expenses.

What's different? Last year, the administration, without consulting its clubs, arbitrarily decided to give a second scholarship to the Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) contest.

Before we continue, a primer in Optimist International scholarships is in order. The Optimist International Foundation(s) raises money for and administers the scholarship programs for Optimist International. They are endowed programs that allow each district to give away to top contestants the following amounts

  • Essay: $2,500 to a single winner
  • CCDHH: $2,500 to a single winner
  • Oratorical: $2,500 to a single boy winner and $2,500 to a single girl winner. Districts may choose to combine the contests (co-ed) and give $2,500 to a first place winner, $1,500 to a second place winner, and $1,000 to a third place winner
As stated above, last year, the administration gave an additional $2,500 to a second CCDHH contestant. Furthermore, unlike the Optimist International Foundation, which distributes the award to the university when  a student enrolls, the PNW District gave $2,500 directly from the treasury to a student. In its budget for 2012-2013, the district has proposed to do the same thing. Additionally, an amendment to the district policies was proposed that this would be required of other administrations in the future. 

This proposal drew a great amount of interest and the district budget narrowly passed. However, the policy proposal was tabled so that a committee could be formed to look into the matter further. 

It is likely that the budget would not have passed except for one thing. Many of the Optimist Club members in attendance did not have their club president's proxy and therefore were not eligible to vote. Even though they may have represented the club's wishes, these members voices were not officially recognized. Lesson 1: Club presidents, your participation is needed. Lesson 2: Club presidents, if you cannot attend, please provide a written proxy to those who attend from your club on your behalf. 

So what about next year and this budget that seems perhaps misaligned? Scott Keller, President, Portland Northeast Optimist Club, challenged other Optimist Clubs to contribute $100 over and above their annual dues to help defray the costs of the scholarship programs. If your club can and will contribute, please tell us now.  Additionally, a number of Optimist Club members on both sides of the issue volunteered to work together to provide more information and recommend a course of action for the future. Governor Larry will assemble this advisory committee soon. 

Accepting a budget is one of the main functions of the first quarter meeting for it prioritizes what district leaders will focus on in the coming year. Additionally, we shared stories and friendships, learned about the social web (friend us on Facebook or click here to sign up to receive district updates)  and OptimistLeaders.org, met the new committee chairs and lt. governors for 2012-2013 and made plans to spread Optimism in our communities.

Sharing Optimism should be job one and we know that we all have it in us to "Get more out of life by helping a child." 
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