Rotary Club and Optimist Club work together for Westfield

Photo Courtesy of D. Michael Hart
From left are Rotarian Lauren Barr, Optimist Darielle Walsh and Rotary Club of Westfield President Blake Width at a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield.

WESTFIELD, NJ — The Rotary Club of Westfield and the Optimist Club of Westfield have been working together for many years for the benefit of Westfield. The Optimist Club focuses on youths and the community, while the Rotary Club is a business networking and service club.

Optimist Darielle Walsh, who was president of the Rotary Club of Westfield in 2007-2008, spoke to Rotary members about the activities of the Westfield Optimist Club.
The Optimist Club services 3,000 youths in Westfield. It has 50 members and meets for dinner on the second Wednesday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. at Echo Lake Country Club. Guests are welcome.

Walsh informed the Rotary Club about Optimist Club projects, and about how the club is adjusting to the changing times. The clubs work together on food insecurity. The program started with Westfield families, then expanded to St. Joe’s in Elizabeth and then the Union County College food pantry. With the pandemic raging, instead of delivering food baskets, the Optimists and Rotarians deliver gift cards from ShopRite. The Rotary Club donates $1,500 per year for this program and helps to deliver the food or gift cards. Other community groups, such as the Y’s Men Club, contribute as well.

Project Graduation for the high school was one of the signature projects for the Optimist Club for 30 years. The Rotary Club always participated, both with a substantial donation and with help from members. A celebration at the Club at Ricochet in South Plainfield the night of Westfield High School graduation, Project Graduation was designed to keep the graduates out of trouble. The event has been canceled for the last two years because of the pandemic. As an alternative, the Optimist Club published individual photos of the graduating high school class members in the Westfield Leader. It also sponsored renovations to the Derrick Nelson Memorial Courtyard at Westfield High School.

The Optimist Club was a sponsor of the haunted house at the town pool on Halloween, but the town canceled that program due to the pandemic. It now sponsors the Halloween parade through downtown, which will have a new route this year.

The Optimist Club gives annual awards to teachers and nurses from the intermediate schools. The Rotary Club gives the prestigious Philhower Fellowship Award to an elementary school teacher.

The Optimist Club sponsors a Junior Optimist Club at the high school and a Youth Volunteer Award that goes to a junior at Westfield High School. The Rotary Club sponsors the Interact Service Club at Westfield High School, an Interact Service Club at Edison Intermediate School and Early Act Clubs at Jefferson and McKinley elementary schools.

For more information about the Rotary Club of Westfield, contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email at drmhart@yahoo.com. The Rotary Club meets three times per month; guests are welcome. For more information about the Optimist Club of Westfield, email optimist@westfieldnj.com or contact the Optimist Club of Westfield, P.O. Box 2213, Westfield, NJ 07091.

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