JEFFERSON — The Jefferson Optimist Club Monday named Deb Miller as its “Optimist of the Year.”
Miller, outgoing president of the organization, has been with the Optimists a long time, in two different stints, and had served as club president in the past as well as this year.
Incoming club Secretary Tiffany Schmidt introduced the recipient as someone who always wears a smile and a welcoming demeanor; someone who takes responsibility and works to bring everyone together, tackling the minutiae of running the club and keeping everyone in touch.
Miller also has been a stalwart volunteer, Schmidt said, helping with all of the club’s activities.
Accepting the honor, Miller deflected the praise, saying that a president can’t do her or his job without the cooperation of the club members.
“I look forward to every meeting,” Miller said “The spirit and optimism everyone brings to meetings is energizing ... and best of all, I don’t have to cook,” she joked, referring to the fact that the club meets at different restaurants throughout the area.
“It has been a very hard year for me personally, with a lot of things going on,” Miller said. “I really appreciate this honor and the support I have received from all of you guys throughout the year.”
The outgoing president said she is glad to have returned to the Optimist Club after a membership hiatus due to personal responsibilities.
“One thing I really like about this club is that you step up when you can,” she said “There’s no pressure to do more than you can handle. You come when you can, volunteer for what you want to be involved with, and contribute wherever you can.”
She noted that there are club members who make every event, and some who really just concentrate on one activity, but give their all to make that activity a success.
Miller said that she had been involved in the Optimists for around nine years during her first stint with the club.
She heard about the club from Jan Tremaine, who happens to be stepping up as the club’s incoming president.
“I really embraced the Optimist Creed,” she said.
The creed, which is supposed to guide Optimists’ actions in and out of the club, reads: “Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind; to talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet; to make all your friends feel that there is something in them; to look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true; to think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best; to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own; to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future; to wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile; to give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others; to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”
The Optimists dedicate their efforts to benefiting youth in the local community, organizing numerous child-friendly events and giving out a scholarship each year.
“Especially in this modern era, with so many corrupting influences, from opioids to technology, I believe youth need to have activities that are wholesome,” Miller said.
The Optimists provide numerous such activities that engage youngsters with others out in their communities, rather than today’s go-to recreation of interacting with a screen.
“Kids thrive when they have positive activities,” she said.
Miller rejoined the Optimists in the spring of 2018 — spurred by fellow member Teresa Brawders, a past Optimist of the Year — and immediately found herself back in the swing of things.
The club still had the same mission and major activities that originally had attracted her.
When the club needed a president, she agreed to serve.
She noted that the Jefferson Optimists don’t tend to have elections, rather allowing volunteers to step forward and serve as they can dedicate the time and effort.
She said that a club leader needs to be organized and a good communicator, making sure everyone’s on the same page. Those are things she can offer the club, but every club member adds his or her own strengths and enthusiasm to make the organization a success.
Miller said her favorite activity of the year is the Youth Optimist recognition, when the club honors one student from each of the area schools for exemplifying the Optimist Creed. The senior honoree also receives the club scholarship.
“They’re all forthright individual, leaders, and just all-around really good kids,” Miller said. “It’s such an honor to be able to recognize them.”
Other major annual Optimist activities with which Miller has been involved through the years include the organization’s annual Easter Egg Hunt in Stoppenbach Park, and the Pumpkin Patch Halloween event, now done in conjunction with the city’s trick-or-treating and costume parade.
She noted that the club has done a bike rodeo for many years, but this year it collaborated with the organizers of the community’s National Night Out to do it on the same day.
“It was very successful,” Miller said of this year’s bike rodeo. “We gave out 60-some helmets. The only challenge was, with so many things happening at the same time, not everyone brought their bikes down.”
“I just love the Optimists,” Miller concluded. “The club’s goal is to serve youth, and in so doing, we serve the future.”