Kiel Optimist charter member Tom Lefeber articulates in one powerful sentence why he remains dedicated to the club: “There is no greater joy than making a fundamental difference in a person’s life,” Lefeber said.
That joy has kept Lefeber devoted for 34 years and along with other Kiel Optimists he makes a difference in the community year round.
“We have a variety of programs and opportunities for members to engage in based upon their personal interest and time allowance. But regardless of what they choose or how much time is committed we all walk away with a sense of fulfillment in helping others,” Lefeber said.
Joe Schuh, Kiel Optimist president, said, “Annually we donate $20,000 to $25,000 to numerous projects. Our money is raised in the community and stays in the community. Giving back to and taking care of the community is our primary intention and what a great reward it is to be a part of that experience. We aim to keep a good thing going.”
Along with the Kiel Lions Club, the annual Kiel Picnic and Chicken and Ham Dinner serve as the primary fund-raisers to support their efforts. Funds raised are directed to over two dozen projects, some annual and others that change to reflect the needs of the community.
Lefeber has seen the change in needs over the years. “The club was initiated in 1980 with a focus on developing youth sports that hadn’t had a presence in town. Now the soccer, football, and baseball programs that we initiated are self-supporting organizations in themselves. It is so great to see that what we started remains strong today.”
With a principle to be a friend to youths, the club still organizes and donates to sports events but the seeds of their goodwill are so much more widespread. From park and school playground equipment, presents for Christmas Cheer, food for the Kiel Food Pantry, to providing free entertainment at the picnic and more, the group touches all area youths. Fifty children recently took advantage of the SafeAssured ID program, 20 to 35 high school students who make the annual trek to Washington, D. C. for the Close Up trip receive financial support, kids who participate in the Summer Reading Program at Kiel Library will benefit from their backing, and the club’s recent commitment as the major sponsor of Challenge Day at Kiel High School proved further allegiance to their core principle.
Schuh encourages others to experience the Kiel Optimists camaraderie of group membership and self-fulfillment of helping others. “Interested persons are invited to our meetings which are held at local restaurants the second Tuesday of the month but it is not required. Some members choose to focus on one particular program while others get involved in numerous areas. That is a personal choice and we honor one’s decision. We would also like to reach out to people that are electronically savvy to assist with time limited projects,” Schuh said.
The next Kiel Optimist meeting takes place on Tuesday, March 11 and begins with a tour of Wind Walker Label followed by a meal at Millhome Supper Club. Contact Tom Lefeber at (920) 374-0672 or Joe Schuh at (920) 374-1523 for further information.
The club also reminds you to mark your calendars for the upcoming Easter Egg Hunt on April 19 and the Kiel Picnic Aug. 7-10.