Over hashbrowns and pancakes, members of the Optimist Club discuss how they can help the youth of Fort Collins.
The Optimist Club of Fort Collins meets at Denny’s every Monday at 7 a.m. The club members, who describe themselves as “friends of youth,” are nearly all over the age of 80.
At every meeting, members recite their Optimist Creed. The creed includes ten virtues to live by including, “to look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.”
The club’s president Alan Beatty is always looking for ways to help the community. He mostly searches for small things the club can do to fill-in what city organizations cannot do.
The club is involved in projects such as the Optimist International Oratorical Contest and Optimist International Essay Contest. The club also started the well-known Toys for Kids Christmas toy drive about 30 years ago.
One of the club’s members, Don Stumpf, joined the Optimist Club in 1962. Stumpf was a semi-professional baseball player when an Optimist Club member approached him about coaching for their baseball team.
After coaching the team, he joined the club.
“I was kinda coerced into it,” Stumpf said. “But I’ve never regretted it.”
Stumpf’s two favorite parts about being involved with the club are helping kids and friendship.
“When you go to one of the projects where all of these little kids are at and give out a toy and they look up at you and say ‘thank you,’ it’s getting harder and harder to hold it together. It’s really a good feeling,” Stumpf said. “The other part is the comradery that we have at our meetings.”
Bill Hanlon, self-proclaimed “spring chicken” of the club, is the only member under the age of 80. Hanlon has watched service clubs become less relevant in cities compared to when he was a kid.
“When I was a kid and even all the way through raising kids, in our town the Optimists were the ones to build the baseball fields,” Hanlon said.
Cities have started to take over projects that the Optimists originally headed and clubs are now “struggling to stay pertinent.” Other service clubs such as Lions Clubs International and Rotary International are experiencing the same thing according to Hanlon.
“The service club movement has had a down trend over the last few years,” Stumpf said.
Members of the Optimist Club are looking for more age-diversity in their club. They are considering holding meeting at Colorado State University to connect with students.
“We just need a little more spring,” Hanlon said. “It would be worth coming and having breakfast with us and see what we have to offer.”
The club is in search of energetic people and new ideas.
“We have a lot of talent in this group of people we just need a little more spring,” Hanlon said. “We’d like to organize it to where we have a more diverse and much wider spectrum of age; it’d make it a stronger group.”
Collegian Reporter Zoe Jennings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.