SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - When a law enforcement officer or firefighter is killed in the line of duty, the families can always count on the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire.
It gives me great pride to be a part of what has become a movement around the country, and right here in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. The club has changed so many lives over the last 15 years by helping families during their darkest hour when they felt as if they had nowhere else to turn.
Leading the charge here at home is a man who knows exactly what they're going through. Tak Argentinis' son, Christopher, was a patrolman with the Wareham, MA Police Department when he was killed in the line of duty back in 1999 while trying to arrest a drug dealer.
That's when his family first learned about what the 100 Clubs do.
"His fellow officers were at the trauma center,” said Argentinis. “They were gathered in the corner and they were telling my daughter-in-law ‘don't worry, the 100 Club will take care of you.'"
That organization really came to the rescue. Inspired by them and the death of another officer not long after that, Argentinis was determined to do something to help others who were suffering by forming a 200 Club in savannah.
With the help of many notable Savannahians including Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence, City Attorney Brooks Stillwell and news legend Doug Weathers, they began in 2000. The group spent many long hours planning at WTOC in the conference room.
They only had 12 members then. Today, there are nearly 400. They serve families from the Florida border all the way up to Beaufort County, SC. So far, the 200 Club has helped 54 families and donated $1.2 million to them.
Typically the organization makes a $200,000 lifetime benefit to each family.
"We meet with the widow privately and give her $10,000 initially, and that's because sometimes there are funeral expenses and immediate needs,” said Argentinis. “Then we meet again two weeks later with the widow, and [we get] copies of the credit cards or loans, mortgages and decide to pay them off. When the children become 18, we pay all their expenses to go to college: books, room and board ,computers, etc. We also pay for the widows who want to go to college. Our motto is we care for those who care for us, and we are there for those today ,tomorrow and always.”
That's just the beginning of the lifetime commitment the 200 Club makes to the families of law enforcement officers and firefighters who are killed in the
line of duty and critically injured.
The 200 Club also gives the children $400 U.S. treasury bonds every year until they turn 18. The group sends the families checks for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and the mothers flowers for Mother's Day for the rest of their lives.
They also give a one-time $5,000 stipend to critically injured officers and firefighters. Did you know the Valor Award winner receives $10,000 tax free?
All that they do is made possible because of membership dues and donations. You can help them care for those who care for us by becoming a member; making a donation or joining in the 10th annual Savannah Mile on Saturday.
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For more information about the Savannah Mile, click on