The community organization had ended three years ago, which resulted in the remaining clubs funds being donated to local schools by then Optimist president Bruce Coker.
A conversation, in April 2012, between Gilbert Elementary principal Matt Harris and LaFayette police detective Stacey Meeks has led to resurrecting of the community club.
“We just started by talking about what we could do,” Harris said. “One thing I have learned in education is that people want to help and sometimes don’t know how.”
They hope the club will have an impact in providing needed items for less fortunate children, while showing all youngsters that club members want to improve their quality of life locally.
“He has seen needs in the school system and I see other needs out in the community,” Meeks said.
As a principal, Harris occasionally encounters children in need of basic items like coats and shoes, a problem he hopes to address with other club members.
“What we envision is a group of people that we can call upon to channel resources and money toward underprivileged children in the community,” Meeks said.
He moved his family to LaFayette last year for the quaint small-town atmosphere and plans to give back to his new community along with the other club members.
“We’re looking at promoting that small-town atmosphere and feel,” Harris said.
Harris attended the Special Olympics at LaFayette High School early in 2012, an event that had previously received much support from Optimist members.
“(Special Olympics) can be such a special experience for kids,’ Harris said, having helped with the event when he was in high school. He plans for new members to renew the club’s presence and support at the event next spring.
The revitalized group has gained much interest from younger local community members, many of whom range in age from 30-45 years. The focus is to provide community improvements for area youth.
After filing an online questionnaire with the Optimists International, Harris received three return phone calls expressing interest in establishing a new charter membership in LaFayette.
When the club was established this year it began with more members than any other new Optimist Club in the nation, with 27 members, and has already grown to more than 40 members in recent weeks.
“The plan was to have a small group that wanted to get something done, then all of a sudden we had 40 people interested,” Harris said.
Future projects being considered by the club include: a dock and picnic area at Twin City Lake in LaFayette. Another concept is utilizing the old high school football stadium and band room for events.
The club even plans to partner on events with the Junior Optimist Club at LaFayette High School.
A golf outing, a fishing rodeo and a 5k fun run are several fundraising events being discussed by members.
During the August club meeting, Walker County schools superintendent Damon Raines spoke about his goals and vision for the school system’s future.
The club meets at 6 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month at the LaFayette Golf Course Club House.
Members of the Summerville and Trion Optimist clubs have been present at the first few meetings to mentor the new club and the elected officials.
Harris and Meeks are among ten board members elected annually by the club, including Chris Davis as president, Lee Dendy as vice president and Ajaye Brown as secretary-treasurer.