Purchase photos

Hays group donates dictionaries





As instructed, Lane Werth read the definition of "optimist" loud and clear, holding a new paperback Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

"A doctrine that the world is the best possible world," read Werth, a sixth-grader at Holy Family Elementary School.

Gary Wentling just smiled. He knew that, saying the same a few seconds earlier, only in a little different words.

"A positive attitude, look on the brighter side of life," said Wentling, longtime member of Hays Optimist Club.

Wentling was joined by fellow Optimist member Eric Schibi in handing out dictionaries to Holy Family sixth-graders Monday.

It's a practice the local civic organization was carrying out all over Ellis County. Other Optimist members distributed dictionaries to sixth-graders at Hays Middle School and Victoria Elementary School, as well as two schools in Ellis -- Washington Elementary and St. Mary Elementary.

Shirley Dinkel, one of three sixth-grade teachers at Holy Family, along with Chris Dinkel and Tyler Haas, told her students she thought the Optimists have been coming to their school with new dictionaries ever since she's been teaching in Hays.

Well, almost.

Dinkel is in her 34th year of teaching at Holy Family and its predecessor, St. Joseph Elementary. The Optimists have distributed dictionaries for 29 years, giving away more than 10,700 books during that time.

"They'll be needing those in English class as soon as you leave," Chris Dinkel told Wentling and Schibi.

Shirley Dinkel told her students one of her sons, Christopher, still has the dictionary he received in sixth grade in the late 1990s.

"Of course you can access the Internet (for a dictionary), but he said it's just handy to have an actual book in hand you can look up definitions and synonyms," Shirley Dinkel said of her son, now 28 years old and an attorney in Washington, D.C.

Wentling explained to the students the motto of the Optimists is "Friends of Youth," telling them about several activities the group sponsors throughout the year and various parks and playgrounds the Optimists have either built from scratch or helped improve.

"We're investing money in youth, but that's what it's all about," Wentling told students in Chris Dinkel's classroom. "You're our future leaders."