About 75 of the special needs folks from Orange Grove were treated to a sit-down lunch, with Santa Clause making a special appearance after the meal.
ER Optimist president Harry Mackey said this is the first time that the organization has held such an event.
“The Brainerd club had been doing it for years,” Mackey said while stirring a huge pot of gravy on the stove in the kitchen. “Some of the years it didn’t get done, including last year, so we took it up.”
Optimist member Ken Davis said the party was more than just sitting down and breaking bread together.
“We provided each of them with a few gifts,” Davis said. “There are some shirts, gloves and toboggans with a little candy in there, too.”
Some of the Optimist members seemed to be having more fun than the folks they were hosting. Bill Holder and his wife, Billie, were particularly enthusiastic about the gathering. Holder, 83, and a retired executive from the computer industry, said he first joined the Optimists in October 1958 in the Miami, Florida area.
“My wife told me then that I should start giving something back to the community,” said Holder, who was raised in Chattanooga and graduated from Central High in 1951. “Ken Davis has been a great friend of mine for years and years.”
After suffering a stroke, Holder’s doctor advised him to move back closer to family. He said he tried to stick it out in Taylorville, Illinois, but it was too cold for him. Davis got him involved with East Ridge’s Optimists where Holder became a Charter Member of the re-formed group.
Apparently the East Ridge Optimist’s sphere of influence is wide. Frances Forester, a member of the Mountain City Corvette Club, was on hand with her granddaughter, Makaleigh Forester _ dressed as a cute little elf, to help entertain the Optimists guests.
“I’m friends with Ken Davis,” Forester said. “We (Corvette Club) had been involved doing Christmas parties for Orange Grove for several years.”
According to the Optimist International Website, the group is a worldwide volunteer organization with more than 2,500 local clubs. It’s members work to make the future brighter by bringing out the best in children, in their communities and in themselves.
Davis said the East Ridge Optimist Club is organizing an oratory contest for the hearing impaired for this coming February. He said the club has the ball rolling on the competition with area schools. The dates will be announced in the future.
The East Ridge Optimists meet the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 6:30 in the ER Community Center on Tombras Avenue. Davis said anyone who is interested in the organization is welcome to attend a meeting and see what the Optimists are all about.