Westside Optimists end 20 years service
The Westside Optimist Club, a 20-year-old service club, disbanded this week.
The loss will be especially felt by West Elementary, which the club had aided through ongoing volunteer work and donations.
“It's a major bummer,” said West Principal Terry Martinez. “The club was small but mighty, and it had a huge impact in my school.”
Al Shea, the club treasurer who has been serving as acting president, said the main problem was “a lot of burnout” among the small number of club members who did a great deal of the work. No one wanted to be president in the past year - he and a few others took turns - and the same prospect was looming for the coming year.
Another problem was diminishing numbers. “We were down to 15 people,” Shea said, pointing out that some people had moved from the area and two long-time members even passed away in recent years. Of the 15 remaining, “only four really wanted to take on much responsibility… After long and hard thinking on it, we decided this [disbanding] would have to be the case.”
One comfort is that the Optimists still have a “working fund,” as Shea described it. He said the plan is to donate the money to West “to help carry on some of their programs, such as the field trips to Rock Ledge Ranch and the monthly appreciation awards.” Those awards, in which two students a month are recognized on the basis of teacher recommendations, come with a $20 gift card each.
There should be enough money to keep those programs going for about two years, Shea estimated.
Other Optimist school contributions have included:
· The TriStar basketball competition (which can culminate with students getting to play at a Nuggets game).
· Assistance with the school carnival.
· Gift baskets for low-income families at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
· The purchase of various student necessities.
West was the second school the Optimists aided. The group had adopted Washington School in the late 1990s, a benefit Martinez inherited when he became the school's principal in 2005. When District 11 closed that school in 2009 and started West Elementary with many former Washington teachers and students - as well as Martinez as its principal - the Optimists transferred their support to the new school.
About two years ago, Martinez even joined the club himself. “The kids are going to miss their presence,” he said. “The Optimists have been a great inspiration for kids to see beyond themselves. It's a loss for the Westside.”
Westside Pioneer article