The Optimist Club of Austintown became the 63rd Optimist Club formed in Ohio on Dec. 16, 1958. It was chartered with 60 members it was the largest charter membership to date. The charter president was Earl Yost, who has maintained his membership for over 50 years and was honored for his service at the banquet.
Optimist International, founded in 1919, was originally a men’s service club. In 1987, its bylaws were amended to admit women. Since that year three women, Joann Sulenski, Nancy Stoy and presently Lynn Larson have held the office of president. Women have also served as governors of the Ohio district, including past distinguished and outstanding governor Sharon O’Neil. Sharon’s husband Bill is also a past Ohio governor and past vice president of Optimist International.
Distinguished Austintown Optimists honored at the gathering this month included David Dellmin and Frank Pavliga, who served as Ohio district governor in 1971-1972 and 1973-1974 respectively. Dr. H.S. Banninga was governor in 1962-1963 and later joined the Austintown club.
The Optimist Club of Austintown has also had several lieutenant governors serve in the Ohio District, including Harold Yerke, Carl Beatty, Dave Bokesh, Dick Stoy, Bill Knight, Tom Stofac, Henry Krut, Bob Steiskal, Bud Abram, Bill Davis, Joann Sulenski and current Lt. Gov. Floyd Barger. Another distinguished Austintown member is Dean Farris who has served in virtually every local and state position, including as distinguished governor and vice president of Optimist International.
While members of the Optimist Club of Austintown are proud of their long and distinguished history, they are most proud of their positive impact on the youth. Known for the motto, “Bringing out the best in kids,” the Optimist Club of Austintown sponsors a variety of events such as the oratorical contest, track meet, speech tournament, essay contest, fishing derby for special needs kids, pumpkin carving, junior world of golf tournament, and more. In addition, the club holds annual fundraisers such as the wine tasting and spaghetti dinner.
The Optimist Club of Austintown meets at the Saxon Club on Meridian Road in Austintown on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Anyone wishing to learn more or is thinking about becoming a member is welcome to attend a meeting.
Optimist Club of Austintown President Lynn Larson displays a plaque commemorating the local organization's 50th year.