The Border City Optimist Club marked 20 years of serving the community on March 28.
Optimist International is a worldwide network of over 2,500 affiliated volunteer clubs, which work to “make the future brighter by bringing out the best in children, in their communities and in themselves.”
To celebrate the 20-year mark the club held a dinner with past members in attendance as well as Optimists from as far as Leduc, Alta. and Prince Albert, Sask.
The BCOC first started when a couple of members of the Prince Albert High Noon Optimist Club moved to Lloydminster. Upon realizing that the city lacked a club of its own, the pair went door-to-door looking for interested individuals, got them to call their friends and families and the Border City Optimists Club was officially chartered in 1995.
“I think of all the projects that we’ve done over the years and all the things that we’ve accomplished,” said charter member Merle Stevens, reflecting on the club’s 20-year legacy. “We’ve done Kids’ Day every year, we do an antique show and sale every year, we’ve done bicycle safety, respect for law, essay contests, public speaking contests. We’ve been busy.”
The group never had a club house of their own. Instead, they gathered at the Communiplex, now known as the Lloydminster Golf and Curling Centre. Stevens says its been a good home from the beginning.
“The early days were pretty exciting. We had to decide the projects that we wanted to do, what we wanted to commit ourselves to and everyone had lots of different ideas,” Stevens said. “We planted trees in Bud Miller Park, we painted the outdoor pool, we’ve done a lot of things around the community.”
Stevens says one of the club’s best achievements was setting up the Myna Sieben memorial “Learn-To-Curl” workshop, named after a club member who passed away at a young age. This year’s “Learn-to-Curl” attracted a record 64 attendees, and interest was so great that organizers had to turn people away.
“We’ve supported a lot of teams in the community. We’ve supported junior soccer and junior baseball ... we’ve donated money to different organizations in Lloydminster,” Stevens said. “Optimist clubs are a friend of youth and we like to help young people in the community.”
But despite the club’s many years of service and its impact on the community, its membership is on the wane. What started as a group of 25 volunteers, which grew even larger at times, now only has six members. She says people seem to be too busy to get involved with nonprofit community clubs.
“When you only have six members it means that everyone has to dig in and help all the time. There are no breaks for anybody,” Stevens said. “We don’t have nearly as many people as we used to have but we’re still going strong.”