Bryan County has hosted a Public Safety Day for the past 13 years.
The day is designed to showcase to the public what the county and city emergency response organizations have to offer.
Jeff Nielsen, the president of the South Bryan Volunteer Firefighters Association, has seen the event evolve and is excited about the 14th annual Public Safety Day, scheduled for April 9 and hosted by the Bryan County Emergency Services, South Bryan Volunteer Firefighters Association and the Richmond Hill Fire and Police departments.
They will join forces to support The Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire’s Red, White and Blue BBQ.
Nielsen was born in Savannah and is a product of Richmond Hill High School. He originally planned to follow in the footsteps of his father, the late Terry Nielsen, and work in construction. But while in college and working part-time at a liquor store, Jeff Nielsen decided to pursue a different path — owning his own business.
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Jeff’s Beverage, a liquor store, opened in the space now occupied by Smokin’ Pig. Now there are two locations — Jeff’s Super Beverage on Ford Avenue and Jeff’s Beverage Depot on Highway 17. Despite being a business owner, Nielsen, has also devoted himself to being a volunteer firefighter since he was 18.
This decision has kept him tied in to the community and the South Bryan Volunteer Fire Department for more than 20 years.
"We all just volunteered," Nielsen said. "Slowly, it has progressed to more and more paid staff as the town has grown and developed the need for more."
Through dedication, training and additional coursework, he rose to the rank of captain.
Besides awareness, Public Safety Day is an important fundraiser to help local groups or people in need. The South Bryan Volunteer Firefighters Association board decides where funds will go.
The current board members — Asa Clay, Ron Becker, Kevin Rasch, Ian Zeba, John Andriotis, Robbie Jordan and Nielsen — have worked hard to distribute funds where the need is greatest. In the past, money has been distributed to the Bryan County Firefighter Memorial, a local firefighter’s wife and equipment the department needs.
Teaming up with the Two Hundred Club of The Coastal Empire this year seemed like the right time and fit.
"We had worked on funding the memorial and finally got that taken care of," Nielsen said. "There was no others in need, and this came in at the right time. We know members of this county have been impacted by the services of the Two Hundred Club. It goes beyond Bryan County; it reaches the Coastal Empire."
The Two Hundred Club, a 501(c)(3) organization now in its 15th year, strives to lessen the devastating effects of tragedies by providing immediate and significant financial assistance to surviving family members those first responders who were killed in the line of duty. The organization serves 18 counties in Georgia and two in South Carolina. An exhibition of fallen first responders will be displayed during the day, and the proceeds of the silent auction will be donated to the Two Hundred Club.
Along with the exhibition, attendees can expect a family friendly experience with many displays, helicopters, inflatables, Trapper Jack, silent auction items, fun and barbecue provided by Smokin’ Pig. All proceeds from the "donate for a plate" portion of the event will support the efforts of the Two Hundred Club. Bryan County Emergency Services Chief Freddy Howell and Richmond Hill Fire Department Chief Ralph Catlett will help with the event.
The three men who originated the idea of the Public Safety Day nearly 14 years ago are retired South Bryan Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Smith, Richmond Hill police Officer (and former Richmond Hill firefighter) Mike Ward and Ralph Chapman, who was named the 2007 Firefighter of the Year for the South Bryan Fire Department by the Exchange Club of Richmond Hill.
For more event information, go to www.twohundredclub.org.