This month longtime member Naidu Permaul will once again serve as president of the Palisades Optimist Club, where the motto is “Friend of Youth” and its goal is “Bring out the Best in Kids.”
Born in Aruba, Permaul grew up in British Guyana (now Guyana) on the northern coast of South America. His family emigrated to Chicago when he was 13, then moved to Glendale, where he attended high school before graduating from UCLA in 1960.
Permaul worked for Los Angeles County in labor relations until retiring in 2000. He and his wife, Jane, were married in 1967 and moved to Pacific Palisades in 1973. They have two adult children, Larry and Lauren.
Permaul joined the Optimist Club in the 1980s and served as president in the 1990s. Per tradition, every club meeting opens with a joke told by one of the members, and the camaraderie among members goes beyond meetings.
When Permaul was asked to lead the club again, he agreed because he values the group’s objective, which is “to continue its long-standing commitment to the various community youth organizations, institutions and programs at a time when external factors pose challenges,” he said.
Annually, the Optimists sponsor an essay and oratorical contest for middle school and high school youth. This past year, Palisades High senior Julia Abbot advanced from the local level to the International contest, where placed second, winning $10,000 with a speech addressing the theme: “Healing the World with Optimism.”
For more than 40 years, the local Optimists have participated in Kettle Day, a major fundraiser for the Salvation Army, by ringing a bell in front of local establishments. The Salvation Army helps low-income people pay their utility, shelters families who have lost their homes, and feeds the hungry.
The Optimists have worked with the Fourth of July Will Rogers Race organizers since 1987. In exchange for their volunteer efforts, they receive part of the race proceeds, which they then grant to local nonprofits.
Although there was no race this year, individual members donated money so that about $15,000 could still be handed out to local schools and organizations.
Additionally, the Optimists are a major benefactor for the Optimist Home program, founded in 1934, which has become the largest provider of residential services to youth placed on probation in California (with homes located in Highland Park and Woodland Hills).
Each Home provides extensive individual, group and family therapy; education; and recreation and athletic activities for 650 teens and families each day.
Of the youth who are tracked through the agency’s aftercare program, 65 percent are crime-free and no longer in need of any type of out-of-home placement one year after discharge.
In 2012, the Optimists partnered with L.A. County to offer a specialized program for victims of sexual trafficking. Additionally, Whole Foster Family Care became part of the foster program, which allowed pregnant or parenting teens to join the homes.
Permaul said, “If civic-minded persons want to support youth activities in our community and want to join our club, we would gladly welcome them.” His email is: email@example.com.
Currently, the club meets via Zoom every other Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. and in addition to a short meeting (and the joke), a speaker on different topics is featured.
“When it’s safe to do so, in terms of the Delta variant, we will resume our weekly breakfast meetings at the Presbyterian Church’s Janes Hall,” Permaul said.