The Newmarket Optimist Club has worked to empower youth and provide social events in the community since it started nearly 75 years ago.
The social service organization offers activities for youth and is one of the oldest existing in Canada.
Now, for the first time, the club plans to start a junior Optimist Club in Newmarket to continue furthering its goals of youth empowerment.
"Starting a junior Optimist Club is definitely within that purview,” president Cindy Crone said. “We want to create a club that allows kids to create fun projects and activities to improve the community and better the lives of people in Newmarket.”
The club started in 1949 and has remained a fixture in the Newmarket since then. A couple of decades later, the club raised funds through dances and other events to build the Newmarket Optimist Hall it calls home, which has kept its place on Forhan Avenue. The hall has continued to host various optimist club and community events.
“Newmarket is a city with a small-town feel. I think that the people of Newmarket are very much committed to community and getting involved with their neighbours and friends,” she said of the club’s longevity.
Now, the club’s approximately 30 members could add a new, more youthful cohort. The proposed youth club starts Nov. 14 and would operate separately from the standard club. Its members, generally high school students, would work to help in the community while developing leadership skills.
This is a powerful way to empower youth, Crone, who is also a high school teacher, said.
“I really want to see our club have that youthful presence in it,” she said. “For me, that’s why we are even in the Optimist Club. We’re here to empower youth.
“The one reason I’m with the Optimist Club is because I truly believe that youth are our future. I believe the Optimist Club is working toward bettering the youth to be able to navigate our future and make a better place for us,” she added. "We will be a better palace if we create this environment where youth can learn these good, community service skills.”
The club has held a variety of activities over the years. Much like optimist clubs from around the world, it holds essay and speech contests for school-age kids, part of a larger series of competitions. The Newmarket club has also helped organize an annual fishing day at Fairy Lake for years. More recently, the club has also hosted holiday-themed events, including Christmas and Easter.
Crone said the club is fortunate to have withstood the pandemic that has impacted many service clubs and outreach programs. As the club prepares to celebrate its 75th year, she said she believes in its longevity with more new members from other communities coming in.
“Our club has a really good chance of weathering the future.”