Enrollment in the Cottage Grove Optimist Club is now be open to Monona residents after Monona’s own club disbanded several years ago.
After the club dissolved, residents of Monona interested in becoming an Optimist were directed to join the Madison branch.
“We’re opening up membership to Monona residents, and right now it’s been worked out within the optimist organization that Monona residents who are part of the downtown Madison club can now join us in Cottage Grove,” said Abby Eddington, treasurer of the Cottage Grove Optimist Club.
One of 3,000 optimist clubs across the world, representatives from the Cottage Grove group said they want to join forces with Monona to expand the club’s youth services to all students in the Monona Grove School District, and not just to students living in Cottage Grove.
“A large reason for us doing this and encompassing Monona residents as well is so we can expand our snack pack program to the entire district instead of just Cottage Grove residents,” Eddington said.
The snack pack program provides home-delivered food to students who don’t have steady access to meals and nutrition when not at school. In the program, children in grades 4K-12 are discreetly given bags of food providing two breakfasts, two snacks, two lunches, a vegetable and a fruit for them for the weekend. Currently, 114 children in the school district benefit from the program, according to the Monona Grove Education Foundation.
Snack packs for students experiencing food insecurity are just one of many youth-focused outreach programs organized through the Optimist Club, whose official motto is ‘Friend of Youth.’
While Cottage Grove didn’t adopt a branch of the club until 2009, the optimist organization began nearly 100 years earlier in 1919.
A statement from Optimist International’s executive office said that the club’s mission is, “by providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in youth, our communities and ourselves.”
Several other Dane County communities have adopted a local branch, including McFarland, Stoughton, and Sun Prairie.
Late last year, the McFarland Optimists made a $3,000 donation to the village’s youth center. Longtime McFarland Optimist Member Tom Mooney said providing a strong support system for local youth is the most essential function of any Optimist Club.
“The Optimist Club knows the value of having a youth center in the community and its impact on kids of middle school age,” Mooney said at the donation ceremony. “We view it as a top priority to do what we can to actively support kids during this period of their lives outside of the school setting.”
As more Monona residents transition from the Madison branch to Cottage Grove, the club is working on changing its name to the Monona Grove Optimist Club.
Eddington said the name change may not be official for another few months as the club waits for approval from Optimist International.