‘It’s all about the kids:’ Perry Optimist Club celebrates 10 years

Lisa Widick - Publisher

In September 2008 the Perry Optimist Club was formed with 20 members. Ten years later, the Perry club is 30 members strong and still has one of the original 20 members.

Randy McCaulley, affectionately known as Doc to the community of Perry, was one of those original 20. According to McCaulley, Jim Boyd, a radio broadcast journalist from Des Moines sold him on the concept of helping the young people in Perry.

There was a lot of support from other central Iowa Optimist Clubs to start the Perry Club. Gary Czerniakowski was the first president of the club. Czerniakowski was the Associate Principal at Perry High School at the time.

According to the website, www.optimist.org, Optimist International is a worldwide volunteer organization with more than 2,500 local clubs. Optimist members work each day to make the future brighter by bringing out the best in children, in their communities and in themselves.

Jenny Eklund joined the club in 2011 because McCaulley asked her to join.

“I consider Doc a mentor,” Eklund said. “I always want to work hard and do the best I can for him. He is a kind soul and a great leader.”

She went on to add that when she joined, there between eight and 10 members. Eklund just finished several terms as president of the Perry club and has made great progress with increasing membership in the local organization.

“Even though I am the lone remaining charter member, I am so thrilled how President Jenny has grown our club,” McCaulley said. “We are up to 30 members now, which I believe is the most of any of the four service clubs in Perry.”

“Being a member of the Optimist is so rewarding to know that every fundraiser and activity we do, children in Perry are the ones who benefit,” expressed McCaulley. “Our efforts are appreciated by not only the young people, but by the community as a whole.”

Eklund echoed Doc’s sentiments by adding “ We give to the youth in our community whether we have the funds or not. We give in more quiet ways and give our time to the children. This is our focus.”

The Perry Optimist Club was able to give three scholarships to high school seniors in 2018 and hope that funds allow for more in 2019. Their big fundraisers include collecting cans and bottles to redeem for cash, working at the I-Cubs concession stand during the baseball season and helping the Perry Lions Club put out the American Flags on applicable holidays.

Dues for the year are only $100 per person and remain one of the lowest among all Perry service organizations. A portion of the dues remain local while the national organization receives the remainder.

2018-2019 officers of the Perry group include President Zack Cregeen, Vice President Jenny Eklund, Secretary Courtney Straker and Treasurer Jason Mena. Meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. at LaPoste the first Wednesday of every month from September through May.

Eklund laughingly reminds everyone what member Cole Adair said at a meeting a few years ago, “It’s all about the kids.” And it truly is.