Barge Canal Optimist Club Members are celebrating 30 years of “bringing out the best in kids” and volunteering in the Lockport community.

The Optimist Club’s number one priority has always been helping the children of this community. Youth service projects over the years includes Just Say No!, Girl Power, Fifth Grade Basketball, Bike Safety, Internet Safety, Project Backpack, Project Warm-A-Kid, Senior High School Awards, Yellow Dyno, Shop with a Cop, Oratorical & Essay Contest, Happy House and Trunk or Treat.

Community service projects such as Partnership in Patriotism, Tee-Off Against Breast Cancer, Salvation Army Bell Ringing, Birthday Cards for Senior Citizens, Relay for Life, the restoration of the Rose Garden, Lockport CARES meals and Memorial Day activities are also a part of the club’s community outreach. The club has been very active over the past 30 years and will continue to be a positive influence in the Lockport community.

Thirty years ago, the club Chartered with Optimist International with 67 members, making it the first all-women club in New York state. These ladies, sponsored by the Sunrise Optimist Club, had the vision to see what the power of pink and an all-women’s club could accomplish.

Ten charter members are still active in the club today.

Carolyn Stutz, charter club president and life member, who in her time as a Barge Canal Optimist has sponsored seven new club members. Stutz is a past Zone 2 lieutenant governor and chair of numerous NY NE District committees and a recipient of the President’s Citation Award.

Gail Curtis, the club's first life member, a past president and sponsor of five new club members.

Jackie Cague, past club president and life member who has sponsored four other club members. Cague is a past NY NE District membership chair.

Sharon Drew, past club president who has sponsored two other club members.

Laurie Ferris, past club president who has sponsored 11 other club members. Ferris is a past Zone 2 Distinguished Lt. Governor, a past NY NE District Distinguished Governor, a Builder of Excellence and a chair of numerous committees.

Wendy Herman, a member of the charter club board of directors and a past club secretary.

Audrey Jex, a past club president who has sponsored seven other club members. Jex is a recipient of the President’s Citation Award.

Debra Kelkenberg, a member of the charter club board of directors.

Joan Pickles, a life member and secretary/treasurer of Barge Canal Optimist Club since 1991. Pickles has sponsored two other club members, served as a chair of the NY NE District Childhood Cancer Campaign and received a President’s Citation Award.

Bernie Sturak, past club president, life member and past Zone 2 lieutenant governor who has sponsored on other club member.

Sheila Tracy.

Women interested in learning more about Barge Canal Optimist Club are invited to call president Lisa Breese at 432-0411 or membership chair Candice Woloszyn at 348-0564, or visit the Barge Canal Optimist Facebook page. 

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