(Oct. 17, 2018) Catherine Read sits down with Susan Bauer, President of the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna. The Optimist Club is a community service club, fueled by volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to serve the youth of the greater Vienna area. The club focuses its attention on students attending James Madison, Marshall and Oakton High Schools, and the feeder schools in their pyramids. Founded in 1955, the club is 63 years young and continues to focus on its mission of “bringing out the best in youth, the community and ourselves”.
JOI (Junior Optimist International) clubs in the local schools enjoy healthy memberships and robust programming. These community service school groups, ranging from elementary to high school, organize service projects that are completely run by the students. Typical projects include coat drives, food drives and a variety of projects outside the schools within the greater Vienna community. At the end of every year, these groups come together and make presentations on their accomplishments. This is a wonderful opportunity for groups to learn about success stories, and has led to collaboration between student groups at various schools and age groups.
Throughout the year, the Optimists sponsor and participate in a variety of community service events. One of the largest events each year is the sponsorship and participation in Ethics Day at Marshall High School. Volunteers work as table captains and support high school students in understanding the importance of ethics in their day-to-day lives. They also sponsor an oratory contest for students, an essay contest, and new this year a communications contest for the deaf and hard of hearing. All of these events are designed to help students learn and grow, as well as give them confidence. The winners of these local events then advance to compete at the district level.
The club also gives scholarships and youth appreciation awards to students in a variety of categories. Students are recognized for academic achievement, citizenship, fine arts, athletics and technology. Vocational students who excel in areas such as automotive repair, plumbing and electrical are also recognized. They have recently added an award for a student in the Special Education program. A full list of scholarship opportunities are listed on the organization’s website. The Optimists also recognize citizens who give back to their community, with the Partners in Education, Respect for the Law and First Responder awards.
The Optimist Club focuses on bringing out the best in the youth of their community, so you will see them out in the community in a variety of places. In just over a week the club will be present in support of the Vienna Halloween parade, where they provide a number of volunteers to help facilitate the event and donate funding on an annual basis. The club also maintains the Vienna Caboose by giving tours and handling the maintenance. Recently the caboose needed both interior and exterior painting, and the club is supporting the town by taking care of these needs.
In order to support all of their ambitious activities the club has several fundraisers throughout the year. They sell beer and wine at the Chilling on Church summer block party, they are responsible for organizing and renting space for the Vienna Farmer’s Market, and during the holidays, the club sells Christmas trees from the parking lot of the Vienna Giant grocery store. Bauer truly enjoys this project, as it brings together club members, along with students who participate in the youth led JOI clubs, and members of many local sports teams to help man the sales booth. In addition to raising money for their efforts, the Christmas tree sales is a wonderful community building opportunity.