Optimist Club honored for work with youth

Published 12:27 pm Sunday, February 12, 2017

For more than 40 years, the Optimist Club has brought joy to the lives of youth in Beaufort County.

Although best known for its recreational soccer teams, the Optimist Club also offers college scholarships, essay and oratorical contest scholarships, soccer camps and supports programs for youth in need, according to club President Patty Peebles.

“We support a lot of other recreation teams, like basketball and football and baseball and softball,” Peebles said. “Altogether we probably, just with the soccer program, touch about 800 to 900 kids in our community.”

The Optimist Club supports the Kiwanis program for foster children, donates to families in need and helps the Salvation Army. It also provides funds for children who want to participate in its soccer program but cannot afford it.

“It’s a lot of organizing and getting things together,” Peebles said. “We stay busy.”

Recently, the club was honored for its work and named 2016 co-Nonprofit of the Year by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. Peebles and club Vice President Janice LaBarbera were on hand to accept the award.

Peebles said it was nice to let people know about the work the club does, as club leaders don’t always focus on publicity as much as they could.

“We were surprised, and we were pleased and glad to get some recognition,” Peebles said. “It was very nice to get public recognition for all the things we’ve done in our community.”

As with any nonprofit, however, volunteers are vital to the success of the Optimist Club. Club leaders work tirelessly to raise money and secure sponsors to keep the programs going, according to Peebles.

“We are hoping, with new membership helping us, we’ll be able to continue doing this program for a long time,” she said. “It is very critical, and it is very critical in us being able to continue the program.”

With the help and support of volunteers and the surrounding community, Peebles said she hopes to see the Optimist Club remain strong. Honoring what those before them started, club leaders still see their main goal as making a difference in the lives of youth.

“Sports programs, whether it’s soccer or football or baseball, help to provide children with learning teamwork and learning to deal with winning and losing,” Peebles said. “I think any sport or activity that has a team atmosphere is good for all children to be able to experience.”