Holton Optimist Club ends 41-year tenure
The Holton Optimist Club has disbanded after serving the community’s youth for 41 years.
The club’s absence has especially be noted this holiday season as members are not selling fresh Christmas trees at the former Jackson County Fairgrounds, which has served as a fund-raiser for youth sports for more than 30 years.
“It was not one thing that caused the club to disband, it was a myriad of things,” said club member Becky Hutchins. “It was the perfect storm.”
Hutchins said that the club lost its “prime location” for selling Christmas trees this year due to the construction of the new Casey’s at the corner of U.S. Highway 75 and Kansas Highway 16.
“Selling trees takes a lot of time and effort, and we didn’t know if we could have a better location to sell them,” she said.
Lower membership numbers also prompted the club to disband.
“As members, we’re getting older, and it’s hard to recruit new, young members,” she said, noting that several members weren’t able to be as involved in the club due to health issues. “It’s heartbreaking that it had to end.”
Club members placed an order for fresh Christmas trees earlier this year, and when it came time to pay for the trees in late September, members decided to disband the organization.
“We did so much, and I know we will be missed,” Hutchins said.
Some of the Holton Optimist Club’s youth and community services over the years have included:
* Sponsored oratorical contests that included state champion Chad Bontrager and current U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins.
* Established the Jackson County third grade dictionary project.
* Sponsored Optimist basketball programs for third through sixth grade students.
* Provided Thanksgiving dinner baskets for NEK-CAP families.
* Sponsored Teacher of the Year awards and the welcome back school staff luncheons.
* Conducted Christmas tree sales for club projects.
* Landscaped and maintained the Holton Community Hospital courtyard.
* Landscaped and maintained the Holton High School football field.
* Established the tennis courts and placement of basketball goals at Linscott Park.
* Contributed to the construction of Rafters field at Rafters Park and Optimist field at Chandler Park.
* Constructed and maintained Optimist shelter house at Rafters Park.
The club was also the first gold level donor toward the construction of the Holton soccer fields.
“If there ever was a need, we tried to fill it,” Hutchins said. “That chapter is now closed.”
The first official Optimist Club was founded in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1911, and Optimist International was organized in 1919. From the beginning, Optimist clubs directed major efforts towards youth services, and in 1924, Optimist International members adopted “Friend of Youth” as its motto.
The Sunrise Optimist Club of North Topeka was chartered on May 22, 1962, and in 1973, that club sponsored the chartering of the Holton Optimist Club. On Sept. 27, 1973, there were 37 charter members of the Holton Optimist Club.
Hutchins called Tom Davies of Holton the “heart of the organization.”
“He put in hours and hours volunteering for the club,” she said. “It was not an easy decision for any of us to disband the club. It’s a great organization, and I’m not sure who is going to step up and fill that void.”
At their last meeting in October, members allocated the club’s remaining $6,500 to several local organizations that serve children, such as the Kid’s Closet and the extensions office. A full list of the final donations will be printed in a future edition of The Holton Recorder.