ROCK FALLS – The Optimist Club of Rock Falls has surpassed $400,000 in student scholarships it has given out throughout the community since the start of the program 33 years ago.
The club, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, raised $100,000 in the 1990s and created an endowment with Optimist International to establish the scholarship program.
“Fundraising converted an array of raffle items into dollars with an end goal of establishing a scholarship program for the youth of Rock Falls,” club member Bill Wescott said. “The list of members who have provided the leadership, man hours and sales is long, but it reflects the dedication that his organization has maintained since the club’s inception.”
Annual proceeds from the endowment and club fundraising efforts fund scholarships for students going to college as well as the Dave Schumaker Vocational Scholarship.
Since 1990, the club has averaged 28 applications for assistance with awards averaging $11,540 per year, Wescott said.
In total, the club has awarded $413,075 in scholarships and filled 701 out of 959 applications over the years. That includes the 18 high school and 10 college students receiving awards this year.
The club has 27 members with an average 21.6 years of service, and potential new members are always welcome, Wescott said.
Members meet at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month at Nick’s Tap in Rock Falls.
“The list of members who have provided the leadership, man hours, and sales is long, but it reflects the dedication that his organization has maintained since the club’s inception.”— Bill Wescott, member of Rock Falls Optimist Club
The club was established April 29, 1947, with the Optimist International mission “to develop optimism as a philosophy of life; to promote an active interest in good government and civic affairs; to inspire respect for law; to promote patriotism and work for international accord and friendship among all people; to aid and encourage the development of youth.”