Several area families who’ve made extraordinary sacrifices will soon be gifted with a bit of extra comfort. The Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire is an all-volunteer nonprofit that supplies immediate and significant financial assistance to families of fallen and critically injured law-enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency service personnel. The organization also provides college educations for the family members of first responders who die in the line of duty.
In the coming weeks, however, many of the families the club has served will receive gifts that differ a bit from the monetary support the nonprofit is known for. As a way to remind the families of first responders that they’re always thought of fondly and cared for, the Two Hundred Club is presenting them with beautiful, handmade afghans bearing color patterns that correspond with certain branches of service. Families of fallen law-enforcement officers will receive blue-striped afghans, and the families of firefighters will receive red-striped afghans.
The idea behind the heartfelt campaign was Chatham County Sheriff Deputy Richard Pfister’s. The inspiration struck when he saw a star-shaped afghan online that someone had made. A longtime member and supporter of the Two Hundred Club, Pfister was struck by the sentimentality behind the handmade gifts and thought it would be nice to do something similar for families served by the club. He knew just what was needed and who could provide it.
Pfister’s mother, Christel Pfister, is 80 years old and has been knitting for nearly 75 years, having learned when she was a child growing up in New York City.
“I was a latchkey kid and the superintendent in my apartment building was from Finland. She didn’t want me sitting idle or getting into things while waiting for my parents so she taught me how to knit and crochet,” Christel Pfister said.
Deputy Pfister told his mom about his idea to give handmade afghans to the Two Hundred Club’s families as gifts. Because the club assists so many families who’ve suffered losses, it was decided that the first batch of afghans would go to those who lost a loved one in a line-of-duty death. The second batch of afghans will be made and given to families of first responders who passed away due to non-line-of-duty deaths.
Christel Pfister loved the idea and immediately agreed, even though she knew the project would require some serious man hours. Her son pays for all the materials, and she lovingly labors over them – sometimes night and day.
“I started in early summer, around June, and have done 26 afghans since then. Each one takes five or six days to make. I crochet them all the time – in waiting rooms, the Veterans Day Parade, doctors’ offices, whenever I have time. Sometimes I get a little cross-eyed by the
evening and have to take a break,” Christel Pfister said. “I love making them. My son says it keeps me out of trouble!”
She just moved to Savannah in June from Jacksonville in order to be closer to her son. The Pfisters have a long family history when it comes to first responder careers. Christel’s daughter is a retired paramedic, and her son-in-law is a retired NYPD officer.
Christel does not sell the beautiful afghans and other pieces she makes, but she does accept donations, which she then funnels to the Two Hundred Club and other nonprofits.
“These afghans are not for sale but they are available for a $90 donation, and any amount over that is welcome. The money goes to charities,” she said. “I love to knit and crochet, especially for charities. Prior to this, I was making afghans for the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Home in Hahira, where the young kids go when their parents are incarcerated. I was making them for the cabins there.”
Christel and Deputy Pfister both agree that their goal in taking on this project was just to remind the Two Hundred Club’s families that the hardships and struggles they’ve faced will never be forgotten.
“I hope the families know we’re thinking of them, that we appreciate what they sacrificed, and that we love them. These afghans are for comfort. They should use them, they’re not for display. They don’t wear out, but if they do, I’ll just make them another one,” Christel said.
Deputy Pfister, who runs the reserve unit, first joined the sheriff’s office in 1988, but later left and returned in 2016. Since then, he’s been an active member of the Two Hundred Club and tries to attend every event and fundraiser they host. Club President Mark Dana readily agreed to the afghan project when the Pfisters presented it to him.
“We just want to make sure that these families know they’re not forgotten. They’ll always be family,” the deputy said. “The Two Hundred Club takes care of people. It’s a continuing commitment. We’re very lucky to have this club here.