Local Optimists recently came together to bring a little holiday cheer to Mentor Me North Georgia.
Members of the Forsyth-Cumming and Sawnee-Cumming Optimist clubs joined forces on Dec. 4 to present the annual Christmas party for children in the program and their adult mentors.
Mentor Me matches adult volunteers to children ages 6 to 17 who need and want a grown-up friend.
Most of the children in the program live in single-parent homes or with grandparents or foster parents.
Boys are matched with men and girls with women. They share everyday activities such as sports, movies, cooking or going to parks, museums and cultural events.
Sylvia Cardona, executive director of Mentor Me North Georgia, said the holiday gathering is always a highlight of the year for the kids and their mentors.
“Everyone always has a lot of fun,” she said. “We are very grateful to the Optimist clubs for sponsoring our Christmas party and bringing such joy to our kids.”
Held at Otwell Middle School, the Optimists provided plenty of pizza, games and activities for the children.
But the highlight of the event, according to Cardona, was a visit by Santa Claus, who took time to have photos taken with the children and to hand out gifts.
Randy O’Dell, president of the Sawnee-Cumming Optimist Club, said the Christmas party is a perfect fit for the organization.
“The mission of the Optimist Club is to bring out the best in kids,” he said. “The Mentor Me Christmas party brings smiles to children’s faces, particularly children who might otherwise not smile much this time of year because of their circumstances.”
O’Dell said he enjoys being a part of the civic club, particularly since it strives to bring hope to children from all types of backgrounds.
“It is gratifying to me that Optimist International and our two local clubs encourage the melding of nationalities and ethnic groups throughout our projects and activities,” he said. “The events are open to all and we embrace all children to bring hope to them for the future.”
Mentor Me is a United Way of Forsyth County partner agency, but depends on private donations for 50 percent of its funding. Cardona said that’s why efforts such as those by the local Optimist clubs are so important.
“We really couldn’t do all the things we do for children without the support of community groups like these and our other donors and volunteers,” she said.