The Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth received some exciting news recently when it learned it was named Optimist International Club of the Year. The announcement was made during the 2020 Optimist International (OI) annual summer conference originally scheduled for suburban Chicago but instead held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions.
This is the highest recognition any Optimist Club can attain within the Optimist organization, and it is only the second time a Texas club has received this prestigious honor.
The Optimist Club of the Year award is presented to the most outstanding Club as measured by such things as: Club growth; increased community awareness and engagement campaigns; increased volunteer member base; and a variety of other criteria. Points in each category are awarded by independent judges based upon community outreach, impact on children and members, new and innovative ideas, and benefits to the individual Club members.
OI, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, has almost 2,500 clubs worldwide and more than 85,000 members. The Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth was founded more than 60 years ago and is one of several active Optimist clubs in Tarrant County. It is a 501 (c) 4 organization and operates a separate 501 (c) 3 foundation for donation purposes.
Club President Charles Hodges, who works as a director at the Fort Worth ISD Family Action Center, said the award was a pleasant, if unexpected surprise given the intense global competitive nature among the 2,500 OI clubs.
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“Just in the Fort Worth/Dallas area alone, there are some tremendous Optimist clubs doing great work,” he said. “For example, the Fort Worth Optimist Club (not to be confused for the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth) has run the annual Christmas Tree lot from Farrington Field for decades, with funds going to support scholarships at all Fort Worth ISD high schools, as well as supporting robust youth sports leagues.
The Arlington Optimist Club is well known for its youth sports initiatives including football, baseball, golf and cheer. Those are just two of many active area Optimist clubs dedicated to supporting children, serving the community and investing in personal relationships and growth.
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“What makes this honor extremely special to us is that, to my knowledge, the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth is the only service club, among Optimist, Lion’s Club, Rotary and others in Tarrant County to ever receive Club of the Year recognition from their respective international organizations.”
Hodges said he started attending the Club several years ago at the invitation of School Board Trustee Tobi Jackson, who is herself a long-time Optimist member, and immediately recognized how many engaged and influential eastsiders were also involved. “I quickly realized the important work the Club was doing for eastside students and families, and I found it to be a great way to give back to the community in which I live.
“When you attend a membership breakfast or Club function, you can’t help but be impressed with this dedicated, selfless group of individuals,” he said. “Whether it’s educators or business people, elected officials, parents or retirees, everyone shares a common thread, which is dedication to the 10-point Optimist Club creed centered around optimism and service to youth and community.”
The Club’s 60-plus year tradition of meeting weekly for a social breakfast and an informative speaker before the work day begins has been the glue that has held it together and continually spurs new ideas for service. The club has met at various eastside establishments over the years, but during the last decade it has routinely met for breakfast in the rear dining room at the Dixie House Café on Lancaster.
Unique to the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth is that it features three members who are former OI presidents: Don Arnwine, Fort Worth Municipal Court Chief Judge Danny Rodgers, and Ken Garner. In addition, during elections this summer, longtime Club member Patsy Garner was elected by international vote as the Optimist International President-elect for 2020-21 and 2021-22 President. When Patsy assumes her role as OI president in 2021, that will give the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth an impressive and unheard of four OI presidents on its active roster, which is an unparalleled accomplishment in the entire OI network of clubs.
Support for students manifests itself in several ways. The Club is an active sponsor of Junior Optimist International (JOI) clubs in several eastside schools, including Eastern Hills High School, West Handley Elementary and East Handley Elementary, where students learn about leadership, service to community and country and organization, including choosing and running projects benefiting the community such as sock and pet food drives to help local shelters. The Club also sponsors a robust youth 4-H club that meets at the Poly-Meadowbrook United Methodist Church and works on similar youth-building activities.
Other annual Club activities supporting students include: hosting a youth holiday choir performance for eastside elementary choirs and their families; a youth and family appreciation dinner recognizing youth from eastside elementary schools as nominated by the school principals; Young Texan and Texanne awards recognizing an outstanding male and female students from Eastern Hills High School, Oak Ridge, Nolan Catholic and Temple Christian School throughout the year; oratorical and essay scholarship contests for eastside students; and scholarships for graduating seniors.
In addition, the Club supports overall OI goals by continually assisting people in other communities who want to create their own Optimist clubs, including its most recent sponsorship of a club in Kenya, Africa. Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth members have also filled many different leadership roles in the North Texas region to share ideas, support members in other communities and foster comradery around Optimist ideals.
Community outreach is a continual theme for the Club, and it is active in supporting Eastside Ministries on Lancaster Avenue in east Fort Worth with volunteers and donations of clothing, food and money, Ronald McDonald House, food and clothing drives to help the less fortunate, and many other worthwhile community building endeavors.
The Club’s highly anticipated annual spaghetti supper has traditionally brought eastsiders, elected officials, families and students together for a come-and-go dinner at the Poly-Meadowbrook United Methodist Church. This year’s 50th anniversary dinner was, unfortunately, postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions and will be rescheduled at a later date.(And will be advertised on the GMN site.)
Funding to support the Club’s focus is on service to children and the community comes from a variety of sources other than dues. One such source is a robust American Flag subscription program, where for $35 ($30 for veterans) a year, east Fort Worth residents and business owners can have an American Flag posted in their yards to celebrate five flag holidays. Volunteer club members and support groups such as the Boy Scouts distribute the flags in the morning and pick them up in the evening for storage until the next flag day. For information on how to subscribe to the Club’s popular American Flag program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another funding source for club activities comes from its annual golf tournament. Fortunately, Covid-19 restrictions for outdoor activities can easily be managed for this year’s 30th anniversary golf tournament scheduled for 11:30 a.m., Sept. 21, at Waterchase Golf Course in east Fort Worth. All funds raised after expenses are used to directly support youth and community engagement activities. Waterchase is one of the highest-rated public courses in the Metroplex and has been a supportive sponsor of the annual tournament in recent years. Starting with a catered outdoor lunch, a 1 p.m. shotgun start follows and culminates with an awards presentation held outside the clubhouse. For information on how groups or individuals can sign up or become an event sponsor, contact Tjbcpa92@yahoo.com, 817-360-6603.
While service organizations like Optimist, Lion’s Club, Rotary Club and others have generally struggled with declining memberships in recent years, the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth has thrived with a steady and active membership.
“I’m a firm believer in the saying that many hands make for little work, and nowhere is that more evident than our Club’s strong 13-member board structure,” said Hodges, who is completing his second year as Club president and passing the reigns to President-Elect Carolyn Hart Riddell in October. “Our board consists of the President, President Elect, Past President, two Vice Presidents, Treasurer, Secretary, six Board Members who serve rotating two-year terms, and various committee heads. This allows for assignments to be shared equally across several fronts without burning anyone out, which is something all service clubs large and small have to deal with.
“It’s very comforting that with our Club, no matter which direction you look, there’s someone there who has international, District or local club experience,” he said. “Instead of having to recreate the wheel after each officers’ election, we simply check our tires and keep on rolling.”
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Like many other service clubs across the nation, Hodges said the Breakfast Optimist Club has been unable to host its regular Thursday morning in-person meetings in recent weeks and has, instead, relied on Zoom meetings and in-person volunteer activities to stay in contact and active in the community. Once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, the Club will resume it’s regular in-person breakfast meetings at Dixie House Cafe, which feature prayer, pledge, song, an informative speaker and comradery.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth is encouraged to contact email@example.com or attend any of the Club’s upcoming events to visit with members.
Eastside Resident Patsy Garner Elected as Optimist International President for 2021-2022
Patsy Garner, an east Fort Worth resident and member of the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth and the Arlington Community Optimist Club, has been elected by Optimist International as President-Elect for 2020-2021 and President for 2021-2022.
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The results of the vote conducted of the 2,500 Optimist clubs representing almost 85,000 members across the world was announced at the OI annual conference, originally scheduled for suburban Chicago but held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Ms. Garner’s election gives the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth the unique recognition of boasting four members who have served, or in her case will serve, as the OI president, including Don Arnwine, Judge Danny Rodgers and Ken Garner, to whom she is married.
During her campaign for the OI presidency, Ms. Garner was asked to submit answers to several questions regarding her career, professional experience and Optimist experience at the local, regional and national level. The answers are posted on the OI website and summarize the exceptional qualifications that supported her election.
As a word of warning, if you’ve ever thought you were too busy to belong to, much less serve in any capacity with a service club such as Optimist, Lion’s, Rotary or Kiwanis, be prepared to be amazed!
Quoting directly from Ms. Garner’s Q&A submission:
What are your primary qualifications for this office?
Professionally, I have 32 years of experience in Operations & Logistics at a Major Car-haul company, working with a broad spectrum of individuals throughout the auto industry. I have a skill set of making the complicated operate smoothly. I am currently employed at a Fort Worth-based accounting firm, which deepened my understanding of the financial world.
As an Optimist leader, I have almost 30 years of leadership experience at the levels of:
- Club (President, Secretary/Treasurer, Board member, JOI Club advisor, Club Builder)
- District (Committee member/Chair; Secretary/Treasurer, OI Foundation Representative, Governor)
- Region: Vice President Southwest Region
- International: Committee Member/Chair; Optimist International First Lady
The past 3 years on the Optimist International Board of Directors has:
- Broadened my knowledge of the operations
- Helped me to develop and understand the long-range strategies & served on various adhoc committees
- Allowed me the opportunity to play a vital role in re-evaluating our past (thru the Optimist Centennial celebrations) and explore opportunities as to how our future will unfold.
- Allowed me to work closely with Past International Presidents and have a deeper understanding of the job because of those relations.
- This has all provided me with a solid foundation for making informed decisions to work with future Board of Directors on the opportunities and challenges we face as Optimists serving the youth in our communities.
Why should a Club vote for you?
Optimism has been a part of my life for decades. I joined this great Organization around the time women were allowed to join because my mother told me it would create a bond with my daughter that would grow long into our future. I met my husband Ken while we served as Lt. Governors in separate zones. My daughter has served as club President & Lt. Governor – and my granddaughters have cheered in an Optimist program. Optimism flows through my veins.
- I fully understand the challenges facing clubs. While serving on the International Board of Directors these past 3 years, I was still very active at the club level, in both clubs (cheerleading sponsor, Board member, JOI Advisor, Oratorical committee & club Secretary/Treasurer.) I have also served as the District Junior Golf Chair running our Qualifier. Working directly with kids is a constant reminder of the lives we change as Optimists.
- I believe the club members and leadership are the most important part of the Optimist Organization and am dedicated to providing services directly to them – to ensure your future. Together, we face many challenges as we attempt to grow stronger in membership, improve awareness of our projects, impact our community and move into a new way of serving the kids in our communities.
- My commitment is to work with you and the leadership of Optimist International to ensure we grow stronger and are recognized as the premier Organization we have always been.
As an Optimist International Board member, or Optimist International President, what specific things will you work to achieve for the good of the organization?
- As an Organization, we have made significant changes in recognizing the needs of the membership. To keep our business strong and guarantee longevity, we need to continually challenge ourselves so that we may remain the premier Youth Services organization. I commit to working together in seeking new and relevant ways to serve our clubs so they remain strong and effective in our ever-changing world.
- I understand both the challenges & opportunities faced by this Organization throughout North America, in the Caribbean and throughout the world. If elected, I commit to working with the Board of Directors, Committees and Vice Presidents:
- To provide the necessary tools to support growth, financial management, and improved awareness of projects across our Organization;
- To continue exploring additional ways that OI can better serve all of our clubs with focused areas of concentration with sports clubs & non-traditional while strengthening traditional clubs;
- To continue partnerships with other Community service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions – who not only do amazing works internationally but also at the local level.
- To consider new and innovative structures like Federations as ways to better serve the regional areas.
- To consider different forms of revenue streams to enable our organization to function without putting the burden solely upon our membership.
- To listen and make intelligent decisions on your behalf and lead the Organization into the future.
- To improve communication to the membership and club leaders.
Anything else you would like to say to Clubs?
The flame of optimism is alive inside of me and burning brighter than ever. I want for Optimist International as a whole, to be strong well into the future so that our Grandkids, and great-grandkids get to experience this passion we all have for serving kids!
I would appreciate you and your clubs support as the Optimist International President 2021-2022. By providing hope and positive vision!
Yours in Optimism, Patsy Garner
Congratulations to Patsy Garner for her service to children, the community and Optimist International and for being elected by OI clubs worldwide to serve as president in 2021-2022. She is truly a pride to the Eastside!