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Optimist Club celebrates those who serve the Arlington community

Judges, first-responders, educators among those saluted during breakfast
Optimist Club of Arlington members Sue Gartner, Dr. J.B. Whitlow and Tricia O’Hara at the Dec. 13, 2023, Optimist Christmas breakfast.

Members of the Optimist Club of Arlington had to rise early to do it, gathering Dec. 13 to salute the efforts of local public-safety personnel, educators, judges and elected officials.

It was worth the early start (emcee Brian Kellenberger’s remarks began at 7:45 a.m.) to recognize “all the good work that they do throughout the community,” Kellenberger said at the 72nd annual Optimist Christmas breakfast, held at Washington Golf & Country Club.

Also on hand were representatives from sports teams and leagues supported by Optimists, including Arlington Girls Softball, Arlington Babe Ruth Baseball and high-school-age club hockey. Representatives of Boy Scout Troop 149 and the Knights of Columbus, who also partner with the service club, also were on hand.

The keynote speaker, Pastor Drew Hill of Memorial Baptist Church, has become a perennial at the event. In remarks, he noted that, years ago and fresh out of the seminary, he joined the Optimist Club in a rural Missouri town of just 815 people, and eventually was tapped as the club’s president.

The club was small enough that during the installation ceremony, “the incoming board stood up, the outgoing board stood up, and there was just one person left seated – but Virgil gave us a good hand,” Hill said with a chuckle.

Acknowledging that, for many, “it’s getting harder than it used to be to be an optimistic person,” Hill said the end of the year provided an opportunity to recalibrate.

“Along comes Christmas to dispel our doom and brighten our spirits,” he said, urging the 60-some attendees to not buy into or be daunted by excessive commercialism or the quest for holiday perfection.

“Maybe there’s a better way to celebrate this sacred season,” Hill said. “A little simplifying would help. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s not a Hallmark movie.”

Also at the event, Clerk of the Circuit Court Ferguson delivered brief remarks about the life of local historian and journalist Charlie Clark, who died in November.

Clark, a county native, “was someone who just cared about Arlington and Arlington’s history,” Ferguson said filling in for Optimist Club member (and former county treasurer) Frank O’Leary, who was unable to attend the event.

Participants left in the holiday spirit, fortified by a sing-along led by pianist/composer Adrienne Cleary.