Fifth in a series about families in need in Clarkston and how groups and individuals come to their aid
BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Bruce Mercado is a charter member of the Clarkston Area Optimist Club, having joined back in 1986.
Over his 34 years as an optimist, Mercado has seen a plethora of local residents get necessary aid from the club, and that giving-back philosophy continues today.
“The Optimist Club wants to do more for the community,” said Mercado. “Providing funding for after-school clubs for students who cannot afford the annual club costs is one example. The more community groups we have targeting families who need assistance allows a team approach and covers more families.”
A past distinguished president and current communications co-chairperson and club website/webmail administrator, Mercado noted the club assists families through existing programs, such as Opti-Socks, Blessings in a Backpack, Children’s Library at the local library, senior high school scholarships, and classroom grants, by providing financial assistance for those programs when they occur throughout the year.
Opti-Socks is an Optimist program for families in need that have been identified by Clarkston Community Schools, providing new socks as part of the Rotary Club’s Shoes For Kids program at Christmastime.
“Every year, the Optimist Club donates over 800 pairs of socks,” said Mercado. “The Optimist Club also supports Junior Optimist Clubs in all the Clarkston school buildings. That’s 11 buildings for all ages from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Each Junior Optimist Club has a teacher sponsor who organizes activities and events for each respective Junior Club.
“Assistance for families from the Optimist Club is indirect, through programs and events.”
Mercado also said the Optimist Club plans to add more programs in the future to help locals in need. Current programs where the club provides the programming and funding include bike safety, oratorical and essay contests, personal safety programs, college prep programs, a Tri-Star basketball event, and respect for law events.
In addition to Blessings in a Backpack, the Optimist Club also provides funding for a fishing derby, life skills camp, school field trips, and to low-income families to attend summer camps or after-school programs and clubs. Classroom grants, renewable four-year scholarships and trade school scholarships are other ways the Optimist Club helps out locally. The optimists also fund the Junior Optimists and Alpha Clubs in the schools and cover the costs of materials and food, a convention for the Junior Optimists, funding for the mentor teachers, and money for a summer get-together before school starts.
There is also an emergency fund for families and monies set aside for career education where parents and professionals speak to area children.
“My overall take on the economic makeup of Clarkston is that Clarkston and Independence Township are very diverse economically,” said Mercado. “Evaluate the demographic attendance area of the seven elementary buildings and you will see the vast range. This is a very challenging situation for all the Clarkston school teachers, literacy coaches, curriculum developers and administrators to coordinate and manage.”
Do you belong to a local Clarkston group that helps neighbors in need? Email us at ClarkstonNews@gmail.com.