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Fraser aims to be its own utopia with new charter club

August 26, 2014

» click to enlarge «
Inaugural charter members and sponsors of the Fraser Optimist Club pose for a photo to celebrate the club’s inception. This is the first Optimist-type club in the city.

FRASER — In a world chock-full of bad news, a number of Fraser residents wanted to be on the enlightened, positive side of things.

The newly formed Fraser Optimist Club, which was officially chartered on June 5 and has since gained traction in terms of members and awareness, has goals that are consistent with other Optimist clubs that exist statewide and nationally. They even have their own creed.

Fraser’s club had assistance in being chartered. The Central Macomb Optimist Club and the Roseville Optimist Club sponsored the Fraser chapter, which hit the ground running upon its inception.

An Optimist club’s goal is simple: focus on the good and don’t dwell on the bad.

“The Optimist group is a group of people in the community that feel the need to bring optimism and the best to kids, and it’s in our own community,” said Paul Cilluffo, a city councilman who is also the Fraser charter president. “It’s for sponsoring events and activities that enhance the youth’s experience in their own community, in a positive way.

“There’s so many things that these young people are navigating through in today’s world, and we feel there’s something positive we can add to their lives.”

Cilluffo felt that an Optimist club in Fraser became almost a necessity after he learned about the various clubs in other communities, and he was eager to do something similar in his hometown — something that had previously never existed in the community.

When sponsors showed interest and pushed for a Fraser club, the results were instantaneous.

“First of all, we felt that there was a void in the city of Fraser as far as Optimist clubs go,” said Elaine Lyon, the former president of the Central Macomb Optimist Club whose role now consists of leadership development for the Michigan District Optimists. “Surrounding cities (like Mount Clemens and Roseville) had clubs. It’s a small, close-knit city, and they care about children and those in schools.”

There are about 100 Optimist clubs in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Lyon explained that each club is autonomous and is given the opportunity to find its own niche in its respective community, and each club member helps approximately 35 kids in his or her community.

Fraser’s 26 (at press time) club members could realistically help around 900 youths in the community, through various endeavors that include fundraisers and the purchase of supplies. And although the economy has shown improvements, many children are still in dire situations, financially and in other ways.

“In my club alone (of about 55 members) I have met some of the kindest, most generous people who donate their time and efforts just to help out,” Lyon said. “Being an Optimist has changed my life and lets me see the children in the community who we help.

“It’s a great feeling, a wonderful feeling. You just feel, as an adult, it just forms great friendships and camaraderie, and a group of adults come together to make a huge difference.”

Cilluffo said it was “amazing” that Fraser had never before had an Optimist club, considering that the city is proactive in many of its endeavors.

The Fraser Optimist Club — which is a 501(c)(4) organization — has already involved itself in two events, including the recent FAN Walk at Fraser High School. Two more events are already in place: a dinner at The Vintage House in Fraser Sept. 13 and an appearance at the Paid-On-Call
Firefighters Open House Sept. 27.

The Vintage House dinner, which costs $38 in advance or $45 at the door, is taking place to allow various Michigan Optimist clubs to welcome Fraser and its relatively brand-new charter. Interested parties can contact for more dinner information.

Cilluffo stressed that the Fraser Optimist Club is not about him, or about any other single person. He said what makes it great and gives it hope is the total sum of its parts, all working together to reach a common goal of illuminating the youth experience. The more the club grows, the better off the community will be in the big picture.

“I wanted to be aligned with this organization, and I think through all the great people that make it up, we can do a lot of good things,” Cilluffo said. “I didn’t exactly aspire to be the president, but I feel that I can certainly help its cause — especially since it’s early on, and we’re forming the club.

“This is like uncharted waters; we’re establishing a new club and our mission will be uniquely ours for our community, and who better to do that work than people who make up this community?”

Those interested in joining the club or listening to its message can attend either or both one-hour meetings that occur the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. Meetings start at 7 p.m. and take place at Warfield Grill, 34275 Utica Road in Fraser.

About the author

Nick Mordowanec covers Fraser, Clinton Township, Fraser School District, Clintondale Community Schools and Baker College for the Fraser-Clinton Chronicle. Nick has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2013 and graduated from Michigan State University. He has slight obsessions with sports, Seinfeld and Led Zeppelin.

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