The History of "The North Okanagan Optimist Club"
The North Okanagan Optimist Club was formed in 2011 in Vernon, BC, sponsored by the Coquitlam Optimist Club. Our Club meets on the third Monday of the month at the Tom's Place Restaurant and Bar in Vernon, B.C..
Our membership at the present time is 22, and we are happy to welcome a new members. Our members live in Vernon, Armstrong and Coldstream.
We have been involved in a number of projects over the past four and a half years. Some smaller projects took less time planning and less volunteer hours while others are ongoing and very time consuming.
Our biggest project has been "Unplug and PLaY". This is the fourth year of Unplug and PLay – a week long series of events to encourage children to unplug computers, electronic games, telephones, computers, televisions etc and get out there and play.
We usually have approximately 100 different events for children – most are free, some do charge, but the charge is small. These events range from yoga, curling, painting, dancing, golfing, pickleball, biking, hiking ,Taek-won-do and more. I have brought information with me to share with you.
Each school child in the district receives a Passport to Fun, as do the preschool centres and daycare centres These passports list the events and give the child an opportunity to earn stamps (like we did with the Expo passports) and eventually be in a draw for prizes. The Passports are extremely popular with the children and are small enough to fit in a pocket.
About 2 weeks before Unplug begins an insert goes out to the community with our local paper, listing all the activities and events. Unplug and PLaY is very time consuming but with each year things fall into place a little easier.
This year the theme is Science and Nature so we are hopeful to have a number of activities in this area to build on this. We are lucky to have Bob McDonald from CBC’s Quirks and Quarks to give a couple of talks this year.
Linked to Unplug and PLaY we have just developed Playground Boxes to place in two of our local parks to provide sports equipment to children and encourage them to run about and play games. The boxes are ready to go however concrete has to be laid and we will have to wait until the weather improves so the City of Vernon can do their part so we can install the boxes. The boxes will have combination locks and a telephone number (City of Vernon Parks and Rec) that one can call to get the code to open the box. We realize that although we are hopeful the equipment will be returned to the boxes we will have losses and have built that into our plan. We will just have to see how it goes. We have chosen two parks in lower income neighbourhoods for the box placements. I understand Abbotsford has done something like this and we took guidance from them. We will just have to wait and see.
We have sponsored the NOOC Essay Contest for four years and although we go out to each school and put information in the community paper, we usually do not get more than 5 submissions. We have presented prizes of $500, $300 and $200 last year.
This past fall we took on the Vernon Heritage Fair and Stamp Contest which in previous years had been a project of the Vernon Museum. For the Stamp Contest students create their own stamps based on a Canadian Historical theme. These stamps are then judged down to six and then a final winner. The Optimist Club gave the winner a $50 prize and her stamp will be used on the front of the t-shirts we give students at the Heritage Fair. We had over 100 entries from 6 local schools in this contest.
The Vernon Heritage Fair was held on April 8th, 2016. We have decided to limit the entries to 40 as this is our first year and we are still in a learning curve. Schools in the district will hold their own fairs and we will take the winners from the school fairs. We know that at the present time there are over 100 entries for the Heritage Fair so we are pleased with that. The winner of our Heritage Fair can go to regional which this year is in Kelowna and has the opportunity to show his or her display in the provincial contest which I believe is being held in Prince Rupert. All costs would be covered for the student if chosen for the provincial.
So, on top of these projects we sponsored and presented a number of other events – Children’s Christmas Gift Event – children from lower income families can come and choose a gift for significant adults in their lives and have the gifts wrapped to take home to put under the tree.
Drop It and Drive – we sponsored this program for two years in local high schools
Cities Fit for Children – a forum held bi annually in the province to provide information and speakers for non profit agencies and health providers. We co-sponsored this years’ event with North Okanagan Early Development Coalition.
We have supported Loonies for Literacy, encouraging young people to read; the Vernon Winter Carnival where we had a parade entry as well as selling hot chocolate and coffee at the Balloon Glow to raise money.
We supportJunior Curling with a donation and set up a booth at the annualVernon Sunshine Festival where air brush tattoos were done for a donation. Balls, Frisbees and books were also given out. We had a booth at the opening of the new super deluxe sports track at Okanagan College again advertising the Optimist Club and providing play items for children.
It is due to the hard work and co-operation of all our members – giving that little bit extra and supporting each other, that we can present these projects in the community.
We have a club website (http://northokanaganoptimistclub.org), a club Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/North.Okanagan.Optimist.Club/) and we have websites and Facebook pages for both Unplug and PlaY and for the Heritage Fair. We find these venues are good for sharing information on who we are and what we do.