WILMETTE – Every Tuesday the restaurant at the Wilmette Golf Club is a bit like a scene from the popular TV show Cheers. A group of old friends gather for lunch to laugh, make jokes and enjoy one another’s company while they conduct the business of the Wilmette Optimist Club.
“It’s a service club. Our task is to provide both time and money for youth and youth service organizations in the community,” said Ron Porte, who has been a member since 1984.
The Wilmette club was founded in 1923 and is one of the oldest clubs in the Optimist International organization. The Optimists slogan is “Bringing Out the Best in Kids” and with volunteer time and financial grants, the club supports local organizations that help Wilmette youth. For example, for the past two years the club has partnered with The Kindness Connection, a volunteer youth organization started by two Wilmette mothers.
The club has two annual fundraisers each year: the annual golf outing in the summer and a holiday raffle and party held in the fall. Through these fundraisers the club was able to raise over $20,000 to sponsor a new dugout at Roemer Park.
The club also awards money to local youth. Each year, the club awards scholarships to Wilmette high school seniors who have demonstrated a commitment to community service and have good grades. The club has awarded scholarships to seniors from Loyola, New Trier and Regina Dominican. The club also holds a junior golf tournament on the North Shore, where children ages 10 to 18 have the opportunity to qualify for the Illinois State Optimist Qualifier held in Southern Illinois. The club will pay travel expenses for Wilmette children who qualify for the state tournament, and also if they qualify for the national tournament held in Florida.
And the members of the Optimist Club have demonstrated their own commitment to community service. Peter Marvin, owner of the Shawnee Garage located at Fourth Street and Linden Avenue joined the club in 1958. “It was the thing to do back then to get into one of the clubs,” he said. Marvin’s business partner was a member of the Rotary Club and so he chose the Optimist Club, and well the rest is history.
“I just feel that it is a worthwhile thing to do,” Marvin said. “We have helped a lot of children through the years.”
The Optimist Club is always seeking new members, for more information to go www.wilmetteoptimists.com.