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Resident plans resurrection of Optimists club

Organization focuses on youth, getting kids to read

DIXON – Michael Murphy knows firsthand how important it is to read.

He regrets not reading much in his youth. Now, he wants to introduce books to Dixon children as early as possible.

The Dixon resident is beginning an Optimists International group with the first project in mind of establishing a Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. The imagination library delivers free books to children from birth until age 5, with an emphasis on learning how to read early in life.

The program, however, needs a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization to launch it. That’s where the Optimists come in. The group will have its first meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Wendy’s, 212 W. Everett Road.

“It’s about helping people get ahead in life,” Murphy said. “The reading program will only be a start.”

Murphy discovered the reading program in Sterling. There, the United Way of Whiteside County is in its 11th year of sponsoring the imagination library, which delivers a free book a month to 1,300 children.

It costs $30 a year per child; the United Way raised about $13,000 this past year to fund the project.

“We’ve had an excellent response and the program has been a success,” said Russ Siefken, executive director of United Way of Whiteside County. “Once a family signs up for it, the Dolly group takes over from there. It doesn’t matter if a family is rich or poor, they will deliver a free book each month.”

Murphy does not know what to expect for a turnout Wednesday, but he hopes that with a project already in mind, people will come.

“The message of the Optimists is to help youth, and that will be our goal,” Murphy said.

The Optimists International in Sterling will sponsor the Dixon group to help it get off the ground. Dixon once had its own Optimists group, but it disbanded in 1999 because of an aging membership.

The Sterling group of about 30 men and women conducts a critical essay and poster contest, junior golf tournament and free concession food at certain community events. They meet at the Candlelight Inn in Sterling. Rock Falls also has its own Optimists group.

“The focus is really on helping youth, and the direction to go is really up to each and every group,” said Mark Sedig, the lieutenant governor of Zone 3 of the Optimists International. “There are certain programs the International has in place to take part in as well.”

Murphy also hopes the Dixon club will agree to raise funds for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which finds homes for children who are waiting to be adopted.

The Dixon club plans to meet at 1 p.m. the first and third Wednesday of every month at Wendy’s. (Dave Thomas was Wendy’s founder.)

To learn more

Call Michael Murphy, 815-994-8467, for more information about the new Dixon Optimists Club, or attend its first meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Wendy's in Dixon.

Go to for more information on Optimists International.

Go to for more information on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

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