JC Breakfast Optimist Club, Inc. Celebrates 60 Years

The current JC Breakfast Optimist Club Officers were recently sworn in by Kansas Optimist Governor-Elect Doug Jardine (right). Others left to right are Joe Handlos, Treasurer; Ferrell Miller, Secretary/Programs Chairperson; Nita Miller, President-Elect and Don Manley, President.

The JC Breakfast Optimist Club, Inc. is celebrating 60 years as an organization that supports Geary County youth activities.

The club was established in 1961, when Royce Baerg, an employee of KJCK radio station and a member of a regional Optimist group, partnered with local contractor Edgar Ervin to pull together friends and associations to form a Junction City club.

During the early years, the members were mostly local businessmen and those who worked in the trades. In most cases they were not free for lunch or evening meetings, so an early breakfast meeting was the best time for this group. Meetings were held in the dining room at the Bartell Hotel, which was then the Lamer Hotel.

In 1969 the meetings were moved to the Pancake House on South Washington Street, which later became the Peking Restaurant. Club meetings moved again to the Cobb’s Family Restaurant next to the gas station in Grandview Plaza. That business was later demolished, and the club moved to Stacy’s Restaurant in Grandview Plaza. In 2014, the meetings were again moved to the club’s current meeting location at the Hampton Inn at 1039 South Washington Street.

Though there were no rules against women members in the early formation of the club, the membership was made up of only men. Like other similar organizations then, there was an auxiliary organization for wives called the Opti-Mrs. formed in 1975. Carolyn Gaston was their leader. However, women began to become members and joined the men in the 1980s.

The first woman to serve as President of the JC Breakfast Optimist Club, Inc. was Luise Kluesner Mathes Richards in 1994. Denise Carlson also served as President in 1999 and the current President-Elect is Nita Miller. The club’s current President is Don Manley.

The local Optimist Club has had a variety of fundraisers to benefit Geary County youth activities. Some of those include Christmas tree sales, sales of fireworks, casino trips, grant applications, weekly donations at meetings, percentage of meals purchased at local restaurants (Ike’s Place, Freddy’s Frozen Custard, Cox Bros. Bar-b-cue and JC BBQ/Grill), served concessions at JC Brigade Baseball games and at City Cycle Sales.

The JC Breakfast Optimist Club donates to Big Brothers/ Big Sisters; C.A.S.A.; Dorothy Bramlage Summer Reading Program; Fort Riley Special Needs Rodeo; Geary County Historical Society’s Hands-on History Program; Geary County Girls Softball; Girl Scouts of America; Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Camp; Junction City Community Band Scholarship Program; JCHS Band/Orchestra, Vocal Music and JROTC; Junction City Little Theater Summer Program; Shop With A Cop; St. Francis Christmas Is For Kids; United Way Stuff The Bus and has a Lawrence Long Memorial Scholarship for a JCHS graduate to attend a vocational school after high school.

Businesses that help support the work of the Optimist Club are Central National Bank; Armed Forces Bank; Holm Auto Center in Abilene and Salina; Jim Clark Chevrolet-Cadillac; Cardinal Insurance, Brian Field, agent; State Farm Insurance, Karen Jameson, agent; Coldwell Banker/Patriot Realty; Next Home Unlimited; Re/Max Signature Properties; JC BBQ and Grill and the Hampton Inn in Junction City.

The club meets every Wednesday at the Hampton Inn. The “Celebration of Optimism” begins at 6:50 a.m. and is open to any person interested in supporting the youth of Geary County.

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