Optimist Club of Westfield

Friend of Youth—Bringing Out The Best In Kids

Optimist International logo

Club History

The Optimist Club is a not-for-profit service club composed of men and women who live and/or work in the Westfield New Jersey area. We conduct service projects that benefit youth and community.

The Optimist Club of Westfield chartered as a chapter of Optimist International in 1989 as an organization whose mission is dedicated to being “a friend of youth”.  The 60 members of the Westfield Chapter have served the youth and families of our community for 23 years providing ‘optimism’ through service projects, community activities, support for needy families, and academic programs and competitions. 

Our signature project is Project Graduation BASH, the all-night graduation party for the Westfield High School senior class on the evening of graduation.  2009 was the 20th anniversary of the Optimist Club Project Graduation BASH, a tradition for graduating seniors.  The purpose of the party is to provide a fun, safe, drug and alcohol-free atmosphere for the senior class to celebrate their high school graduation.  Over 7,000 Westfield High School graduates have had joyous and safe celebrations at our annual Project Graduation BASH. 

In the past 20 years, approximately 85% of the graduating class has attended BASH.  The all night substance-free celebration is sponsored and financed by the Optimist Club and contributions are an important part of BASH funding. 

Project Graduation BASH has provided a safe haven for our students on graduation night - many now even return to chaperon subsequent events.  We are often reminded of the importance of this night by young adults returning to the community after college with stories about “their BASH”.

During the same period, the Optimist Club of Westfield has been able to provide almost 1,000 food baskets to those in need during the Holiday season.  While most recipients are extended families with young children, we are often supporting senior citizens and half-way houses in Westfield that are always in need of extra help.  Thanks to the generous cooperation and support of area merchants we also able to provide candy, poinsettias, books and toys with the food baskets. 

Club members have annually supported the Westfield Recreation Commission’s Haunted House and Spring Fun Run by providing most of the human resources for site construction and day-of-event volunteers.  In 2009, the Optimist Club assumed full responsibility for presenting and sponsoring the new Westfield Haunted House held on October 31 at the Westfield Memorial Pool.

For many years, we also have sponsored academic competitions at all levels in the Westfield Public School system.  Our academic competitions have complemented the many sports activities available to Westfield’s youth by allowing them to experience success through hard work in other disciplines.   The Club has sponsored Westfield student attendance at the Congressional Seminar, organized the Hands-On-Science Program for elementary school students, supported  Eagle Scouts efforts to successfully create the WWII and Viet Nam Veteran war memorials downtown, and supported numerous town arts and humanities programs for young people. 

In past years, club members have worked on a Habitat for Humanity project in Plainfield and on other Habitat projects supporting victims of Katrina, including one year furnishing five homes in Perth Amboy for families transplanted from the Gulf coast. 

We also provide annual awards and recognition for members of the community that have excelled in helping others with a Youth Volunteer and two Intermediate School Teachers awards.  Some 30 teachers have received well-deserved recognition because of our Intermediate School Teachers awards - the only award of its kind established for the teachers at Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools.      

Our chapter also sponsors a Junior Optimist Club whose members visit local nursing homes, collect toys for tots, sponsor youth photo competitions and provide youth volunteers for the Haunted House and Fun Run. 

The Optimist Club of Westfield has become an integral part of community life over the past 23 years.  During good times and bad, even in a relatively affluent community like Westfield, we are aware that there are families in need. 

The Optimist Club’s involvement with the community has been broad, deep, and long standing. We were original co-sponsors of the successful and continuing Night Place for intermediate school students, major contributor to the Recreation Department’s Teen Center, and a “Top Hat” contributor to the Children’s Family Night - New Year’s Eve celebration sponsored by the Recreation Department and Chamber of Commerce.

The members of our organization touch upwards of 2,500 young people and more than 500 adults in Westfield each year.  While we are proud our activities serve so many community members we are equally proud of the depth of the relationships we often create with our smaller programs. 

The Optimist Club of Westfield provides social opportunities for almost 60 adult members and more than 20 Westfield high school students in the Junior Optimist Club.  We take pride in serving Westfield while establishing strong community bonds and lasting friendships.

The Optimist Club meets the second Wednesday of each month for dinner and guests are always welcome to join us at any of our monthly meetings.  For more information, please e-mail Michael Walsh at walshm@comcast.net

To contact us:

Past Club Officers and Directors

1989-1990

President

Don Pray

VP, Community

Frank Mulvaney

VP, Chapter

Mike Walsh

Treasurer

Joe DeMaio

Directors

Geoff Crosby, Jeff Feldman, Mike Fleischmann, Vic Mankoski, John Manos, Warner Olsen

House

John Ricker

Newsletter

Marty Cohen

Membership

Peter Schecter

1990-1991

President

Don Pray

VP, Community

John Manos

VP, Chapter

Marty Cohen

Treasurer

Jim Pinkin

Directors

Bob Haldeman, Mel Kevoe, Vic Mankoski, Peter Schecter, Marty Sheehy, Roger VanAusdal

House

Jerry Hughes

Newsletter

Marty Cohen

Membership

Mike Walsh

1991-1992

President

John Manos

VP, Community

John Feeney

VP, Chapter

Frank Mulvaney

Treasurer

Len Cerefice

Directors

Bruce Baker, Ned Fox, Bob Haldeman, Jerry Hughes, George Kraemer, John Schmidt

House

Vic Mankoski

Newsletter

Marty Cohen

Membership

Sher Chorost

1992-1993

President

Jerry Hughes

VP, Community

George Kraemer

VP, Chapter

Ned Fox

Treasurer

Len Cerefice

Directors

Jim Capone, Bill DiLouie, Pat Heller, Jim Murphy, Frank Schwarzer, Rob Shaffer

House

Bruce Baker

Newsletter

Charlie Dietz

Membership

John Feeney

1993-1994

President

Rob Shaffer

VP, Community

Frank Schwarzer

VP, Chapter

Pat Heller

Treasurer

Steve Benisch

Directors

Dan Cox, Jeff Feldman, Russ Finestein, Jim Fleming, Penny Pray, Steve Wearley

House

Len Cerefice

Newsletter

Merv Turner

Membership

Jerry Hughes

1994-1995

President

Frank Schwarzer

VP, Community

Russ Finestein

VP, Chapter

Pat Heller/Don Pray

Treasurer

Steve Benisch

Directors

Jay Boyle, Jim Fleming, Phil Graye, Frank Mulvaney, Glenn Picou

House

Penny Pray

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

Jerry Hughes

1995-1996

President

Russ Finestein

VP, Community

Jay Boyle

VP, Chapter

Dave Graham

Treasurer

Glenn Picou

Directors

Phil Graye, Jim Nixon, Frank Schwarzer, Merv Turner, Jim Wells

House

Jim Fleming

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

Rob Schaffer

1996-1997

President

Merv Turner

VP, Community

Jim Fleming

VP, Chapter

Dave Graham

Treasurer

Marty Silverman

Directors

David Judd, Mitch Newmark, Art O’Brien, Sandi Fleming, Dom Tricarico

House

Jim Nixon

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

Rob Shaffer

1997-1998

President

Jim Fleming

VP, Community

Jim Nixon

VP, Chapter

Jay Boyle

Treasurer

Marty Silverman

Directors

Federico Capasso, Thom Hornish, David Judd, Gerard Kieczkowski, Bill Ryan, Rob Shaffer

House

Merv Turner

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

A. Tiedrich / S. Fleming

1998-1999

President

Sandi Fleming

VP, Community

Thom Hornish

VP, Chapter

Marty Silverman

Treasurer

Bill Ryan

Directors

Russ Finestein, Maria Morris, Mitch Newmark, Penny Pray, Eileen Willoughby

House

David Judd

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

R. Shaffer/M. Kieczkowski

1999-2000

President

Thom Hornish

VP, Community

Maria Morris

VP, Chapter

Martha Kieczkowski

Treasurer

Bill Ryan

Directors

Jim Nicoll, Doug Miller, David Judd, Jim Perry, Paul Smith

House

Barry Morris

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

Ken Wilson

2000-2001

President

Marty Silverman

VP, Community

Doug Miller

VP, Chapter

Jim Perry

Treasurer

Barry Morris

Directors

Gerri McDonald, Jim Nicoll, Howard Trickey, Ken Wilson, Gerard Kieczkowski, Jack Walsh

House

Marla Hewitt

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

George Kraemer

2001-2002

President

Gerri McDonald

VP, Community

Jim Perry

VP, Chapter

Howard Trickey

Treasurer

Tom Higgins

Directors

Frank Mulvaney, Steve Wearley, Mark Goulet, Marty Silverman

House

David Owens

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

Frank Schwarzer

2002-2003

President

Jay Boyle

VP, Community

Russ Finestein

VP, Chapter

Frank Mulvaney

Treasurer

Don Pray

Directors

Jeff Feldman, Steven Geltzeiler, Barry Morris, Jim Murphy, David Owens, Corey Walsh

House

Jim Fleming

Newsletter

Jim Murphy

Membership

Steve Wearley

2003-2004

President

Doug Miller

VP, Community

Jeff Feldman

VP, Chapter

Steve Wearley

Treasurer

M. Goulet / B. Haldeman

Directors

Ned Fox, Steven Geltzeiler, Len Glassman, Gerard Kieczkowski, David Owens, Mike Walsh

House

D. Kaye / Al Lehmkuhl

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Frank Schwarzer

2004-2005

President

Mike Walsh

VP, Community

Jeff Feldman

VP, Chapter

David Owens

Treasurer

Bob Haldeman

Directors

Mark Elsasser, Jim Fleming, Phil Graye, Len Glassman, Mel Kevoe, Russ Finestein, Don Pray

House

M. Hewitt / F. Mulvaney

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Jay Boyle

2005-2006

President

Jeffrey Feldman

VP, Community

Mark Elsasser

VP, Chapter

Mel Kevoe

Treasurer

Bob Haldeman

Directors

Irv Brand, Len Glassman, Thom Hornish, Rob Murphy, Bill Ryan, Howard Trickey, Gina Benkendorf

House

M. Hewitt / F. Mulvaney

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh

2006-2007

President

Steve Wearley

VP, Community

Irv Brand

VP, Chapter

Ned Fox

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Phil Krevsky, Dave Leiz, Howard Trickey

House

M. Hewitt / F. Mulvaney

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Jeffrey Feldman

2007-2008

President

Mike Walsh

VP, Community

Bill Foley

VP, Chapter

Barry Morris

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Jeffrey Feldman, George Kraemer, Dave Leiz, Frank Mulvaney, Mitch Newmark, Frank Schwarzer

House

M. Hewitt

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Steve Wearley

2008-2009

President

Bill Foley

VP, Community

Darielle Walsh

VP, Chapter

Mitch Newmark

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Ann Grote, Rob Nehring, Brad Feldman, Paul Arfanis,  George Kraemer, Frank Schwarzer

House

M. Hewitt

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh

2009-2010

President

Mitch Newmark

VP, Community

Darielle Walsh

VP, Chapter

Rob Nehring

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Ann Grote, Paul Arfanis, Mark Elsasser, Mark Epstein, Marty Silverman, Karen Yutsus

House

K. Yutsus / D. Walsh

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh

2010-2011

President

Rob Nehring

VP, Community

Darielle Walsh

VP, Chapter

Anne Grote

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Paul Arfanis, Brent Beene, Mark Elsasser, Marc Epstein, Robin Lynch, Jeff Rembisz, Marty Silverman, Karen Yutsus

House

K. Yutsus / D. Walsh

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh

2011-2012

President

Darielle Walsh

VP, Community

Jeff Rembisz

VP, Chapter

Robin Lynch

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Paul Arfanis, Brent Beene, Mark Elsasser, Marc Epstein, Anne Grote, Ray Kostyack, Marty Silverman, Karen Yutsus

House

K. Yutsus

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh

2012-2013

President

Jeff Rembisz

VP, Community

Ray Kostyack

VP, Chapter

Marc Epstein

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Brent Beene, Mark Elsasser, Marc Epstein, Anne Grote, Robin Lynch, Dave Rehrer, Marty Silverman, Mike Walsh

House

Darielle Walsh

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh

2013-2014

President

Marc Epstein

VP, Community

Ray Kostyack

VP, Chapter

Dave Rehrer

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Jeff Christakos, Ginger Johnson, Robyn Lynch, Vic Mankoski, Marty Silverman, Mike Walsh

House

Darielle Walsh

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh

2014-2015

President

Ray Kostyack

VP, Community

Dave Rehrer

VP, Chapter

Ginger Johnson

Treasurer

Jim Fleming

Directors

Jeff Christakos,  Robyn Lynch, Vic Mankoski, Marty Silverman, Mike Walsh

House

Darielle Walsh

Newsletter

Howard Trickey

Membership

Mike Walsh