The Optimists of Arkansas City, well known for the pork burgers they provide during the Last Run Car Show and Arkalalah, do much more than serve food to people at those two events.

Optimist“We have a lot of fun,” said Optimists President Tommy Aguinaga.

This week, the Optimists will prepare their food trailers for the car show, including stocking them for the weekend — and they already have made plans to ready the trailers for Arkalalah.

The larger food sales trailer was purchased recently and provides double the space of the old trailer. There also is a smaller storage trailer that pairs with it.

Members of the group cook the pork burgers on a large propane grill that can hold as many as 120 burgers at a time, though they generally cook around 90.

But the grill also is used for more than just the autumn fundraisers each year.

The Optimists also cook for annual events such as DARE Camp, National Night Out and city employee appreciation luncheons.

They contribute time and funds to a myriad of other community events, including the Sgt. Jerry Mills Jr. Fishing Derby and the Bicycle Safety Rodeo.

The Optimists financed approximately $3,000 of startup equipment costs for the Arkansas City Police Department’s SafeAssured identification system for kids.

With the money the group raises, it is able to provide valuable help to the community at large.

The Optimists sponsor a Cowley College scholarship and three or four youth sports teams each year.

“We’re all about the youth of Arkansas City,” said club member and past president Gary Hale.

In the last 12 months, they have sponsored three outdoor movies on the V.J. Wilkins Memorial Stage at Wilson Park.

The group also provides needed funds for small groups that come with a clear, positive need, such as the Boy Scouts Troop 328 bean feed.

Club members also have participated in child car seat safety checks in the past and helped to replace defective units. They hope to renew that effort at next year’s Cowley County Health and Safety Fair.

In all, the Optimists donated nearly $9,000 back to the community, in one form or another, in the last year.

This is the busiest time of year for the club, with their two most involved events bearing down. But members also are busy planning for the election season.

Every four years, the Optimists facilitate Kids Voting Kansas, which includes an opportunity for local candidates to interact with USD 470 students in a forum at Arkansas City Middle School.

Then all of the schoolchildren in the district will vote at their respective schools on Election Day.

Optimists and student volunteers count the ballots that night at a pizza party and the results are relayed back to the student bodies.

The club currently has 22 members and is looking to increase its numbers with newcomers.

Those interested in joining the group should call Hale at (6200 741-1082, president-elect Bob Frazee at (620) 441-3757 or secretary Andrew Lawson at (620) 441-4415.

The Optimists meet at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at Daisy Mae’s Cafe, 511 W. Madison Ave.