Severna Park Optimists celebrate 25 years

March 15, 2001|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MEMBERS PAST AND PRESENT celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Optimist Club of Severna Park and its civic contributions Friday night with a party at Club Meade.

"I joined Optimists for purely selfish reasons," said Brad Everest of San Antonio, a charter member who traveled from his home in Texas to attend the affair.

It was item No. 7 of the 10-part Optimist Creed that persuaded Everest to join an organization that, along with many worthwhile goals, encourages members "to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future."

Everest puts the Optimist Creed into practice as a resource adviser for his church, the Church of Today, part of the United Divine Science movement headquartered in San Antonio.

"The Optimist Creed is a wonderful summation of what we teach," he said.

Joining Everest at the podium were fellow charter members Ron Edwards, Ray Robertson and Jack McGrail, the club's first president. The latter three live in Severna Park, are past presidents, and remain active members. Edwards, accompanied by his wife, Mary, took the audience back to the 1970s when the club was organized. Gerald Ford was president, he said, and at an inn that members frequented, "You could get a room for $15 a night, a drink for 80 cents and two crab cakes for $2.80.

"Some things change; some things don't," Edwards added, pointing to his feet. "I was wearing these shoes at our organization banquet," he said, and pointing to his lapel, "and this same badge" - a souvenir he had retrieved from his desk drawer.

Motioning to an award-covered banner, Robertson said of the 38-member club, "We're a cut above. Our entrants winning the [Optimist] essay and oratorical contests at the district level so many times is a sign of our achievement." His wife, Leah, was in the audience.

McGrail, who attended with his wife, Jacqueline, recalled that the inaugural banquet was held at the Hilton Hotel in Annapolis, and the guest speaker was then-County Executive Robert A. Pascal.

Chuck Mercier, a fourth charter member still active in the club, was unable to attend Friday's meeting.

The Severna Park club listed 20 members when it was organized April 9, 1976. It was sponsored by the Optimist Club of Timonium, and a large contingency from Timonium attended the anniversary celebration.

"Severna Park's been around for a quarter of a century," said Mark Harris of the Timonium club, which is organizing a club in the Hereford area of northern Baltimore County. "It's accomplished a lot of good things for young people, like sponsoring leadership programs for high school students."

Optimist International was founded as a men's club in 1919, but at an international convention in 1987 in Montreal, the decision was made to open it to women.

Three of the four current officers for the Severna Park club are women: President Marsha Poulos of Arnold, Vice President Dessie Pyles of Pasadena and Secretary Alice Allor of Severna Park.

"My husband is not a member," said Poulos, "but Optimists is my cup of tea. I enjoy the friendships. I don't have any family in this area, and club members make you feel like you're part of the family.

"Females have helped the club tremendously, doubling the manpower," she said, not to mention adding a feminine touch to the meetings. The first-ever baby shower at a Severna Park meeting was held recently, causing the men "to throw a fit," Poulos said.

Whether the men initially liked the idea, she added, everyone ended up having a good time at the party for member Karin Mitchell.

This year 's lone male officer is Treasurer Jim Hubbard. Since becoming an Optimist in 1978, he has been president; lieutenant governor of Zone 12, an area that includes Anne Arundel; and governor of what is now nine zones in Maryland and southern Delaware.

Hubbard brought a measure of fame to the local club by serving as 1998-1999 president of Optimist International. With the responsibilities that come with the office, a wife like Sherry Hubbard becomes an irreplaceable partner. The couple traveled to clubs around the nation nearly every week for a year.

Sherry recruited her twin sister, Terry Higgins, a New Jersey transplant, to join the club and become a third partner, helping with trips and planning.

The club motto, Friend of Youth, is promoted through a variety of programs. Topping the list are the essay and oratorical contests, a youth appreciation banquet and participation in the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation.

The Ken Allor Memorial College Scholarship is available for the first time this spring, named in honor of a former president of the club - Alice Allor's husband - who died in 1996.

Graduating seniors from Archbishop Spalding, Chesapeake, Old Mill and Severna Park high schools and Severn School are eligible. Consideration will be given to grades, extracurricular activities, organizations outside school, community service and employment, said John Donohue of Severna Park, another former club president who is president of the Ken Allor Scholarship Foundation.

Donations of money and automobiles are tax-deductible, he said, with all that comes in designated for scholarships.

The application deadline is March 30. Information: Jim Hubbard, 410-647-6966.

Information on the club: Marsha Poulos, 410-757-5147.

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