The Optimist Club of Jackson became Charter Member of Optimist International in 1940. Known as "Friend of the Delinquent Boy", the organization strove to guide delinquent boys to an honorable path in life. The club grew rapidly and membership was soon limited to 75 members. As community needs changed so did the Optimist Club. It wisely dropped the word "delinquent" and became the "Friend of the Boy" concentrating its manpower and financial means to the benefit of all boys and in the 1970's, became "Friends of Youth" serving both boys and girls. The Club welcomes both male and female members.
Over the years the Optimist Club of Jackson has left its mark on Jackson community. The most notable Landmark is the Optimist Ice Arena. at 1300 W. North Street where over a half million skaters, guest, and fans enter during the year. For many years the club maintained a long range of funds hoping to someday find the ultimate project that would become of great benefit to the community. In 1984, the Optimist Club formed the Jackson Optimist Charitable Fund, Inc. In August of 1985 the owners of the Jackson Sports Arena donated the arena to the Jackson Optimist Charitable Fund, Inc. The ultimate project was off and running with help from the Optimist Clubs long range fund and community donations.
The Optimist Ice Arena is governed by a Board of Directors made up of seven members of the Optimist Club of Jackson. In July of 1996 due to heavy ice time demand from the community, the Board of Directors took on the task of the "Twice the Ice" project. The facility doubled in Size with two ice surfaces, expanded lobby, office, and concessions and a year round skating surface. The community need had been met by the Optimist Club. On such a solid foundation, The Optimist Club of Jackson knows no limitation in years that lie ahead.
Ordinary People through their membership with the Optimist Club of Jackson have accomplished extraordinary things such as :
The Optimist Ice Arena that serves thousands of youth and adults yearly was purchased, then expanded and continually managed by Optimist Club members in such a way to afford community with the lowest ice time rental rates in our area, and possible the state.
Respect for Law Luncheon where Optimist Club honors all law enforcement department in our county. Annual awards are given to officers and departments of distinction with guest speakers such as local judges, prosecuting attorneys, and Chiefs of Police, along with other speakers.
Children's Christmas Shopping Spree that benefits less fortunate children and their families. These children are recommended by their school teachers. Over $4000 spent in 2004 for the children's Christmas shopping and Santa party Afterwards.
Salvation Army Bell Ringing where the Optimist Club members ring the Salvation Army bell during the holiday season at three locations in our community. The optimist Club consistently is near the top of all service clubs in money collected.
Gordon Will Opportunity Scholarship that provides two $2,000 scholarships yearly to seniors that are graduating from high school. Students are selected on a number of criteria such as, financial need, GPA, etc. but with a heavier emphasis on community service
Junior World Golf Tournament help annually in Jackson affords all local youth golfers the opportunity to qualify for the Optimist State tournament and the Optimist World Tournament held at a prestigious championship golf course, usually held in Florida or California.
The Optimist Club Float We annually have as our guest the Rose Queens court in the Rose Parade, participate in the Holiday Parade and have in the past participated in the Miss Michigan Parade, Grass Lake 4th of July Parade, among others. A large picture of the Optimist Float is on display in the cafeteria of the Meijer store on Airport Road.
Soap Box Derby is a new project for the Optimist Club but with the participation of Optimist Club, The Optimist Ice Arena and Optimist members were able to help in more than doubling the derby participants in 2004. With the purchase of several cars, many kids that otherwise would never have had the opportunity to participate were able to have the thrill of a life time. We are now a major sponsor of the event.
Government Day county high school students interested in government and recommended by their teachers, are bused to Lansing with Optimist members to spend the day with our area elected officials. A full day is spent at the capital with our leaders and the students are recognized on the floor of both the House and Senate while in session.
Holloween Party is planned again this year in conjunction with Parks and Recreation Department. It will be an old fashioned party for local youth with cider and donuts and lots of Candy.