Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

East Side Optimist Club Honors Local Students And 'friends'

East Side Optimist Club essay contest winners for 2019 are: first place Jordan Lasher, left, Reitz Memorial High School; second place Luke Freeman, New Tech Institute; and third place Sophie Thompson, Reitz Memorial High School.

About 40 people gathered at the Golden Corral Buffet on Evansville’s east side on March 4 to celebrate those honored during the annual East Side Optimist Club Awards Night program.

Larry Neisen, program chairman and a member of St John the Evangelist Parish in Daylight, said the evening gives the East Side Optimists an opportunity to “show our appreciation” for people who make their programs possible.

This year, Reitz Memorial High School students placed first and third in the essay contest, which was established in 1983. The 2019 winners are first place Jordan Lasher from Reitz Memorial; second place Luke Freeman, New Tech Institute; and third place Sophie Thompson, Reitz Memorial.

Lasher read his essay during the program. He said problem-solving without an optimist outlook does not serve anyone involved.

“Optimism is one pivotal quality that many people notice before any other aspect of personality. … The most astonishing aspect of optimism and the one I believe deserves emphasis is the tendency to motivate,” he said.

Neisen then presented the 2019 Citizen of the Year award to an “unheralded individual who deserves but doesn’t often receive recognition:” Angie Lasher.

Lasher and her husband are members of Good Shepherd Parish, and they have 11 children, 5 of whom are previous essay contest participants. Her son, Jordan, won first place this year in the essay contest.

Neisen said the Lasher kids are the “most well-behaved and intelligent children I’ve ever known for a family of that size.”

“You could make a person cry,” Lasher told Neisen as she walked up to accept the award.

Past award recipients include Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, and last year, for the first time in club history, co-winners of the Citizen of the Year were named. Diocese of Evansville Superintendent of Schools Dr. Daryl Hagan and Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Superintendent Dr. David Smith were the 2018 honorees.

The program included the Club Member of the Year, which went to Layne Ruse. Neisen also awarded 13 Friend of Optimist Awards to community members.

“It's a fun night with everyone getting a door prize,” he said.

According to club members, Optimist Clubs strive to bring out the best in youth, communities and themselves.