The 200 Club is dedicated to helping the families of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics in the 20 counties of the Coastal Empire.
But when the group heard of the June 18 fire that killed nine firefighters in Charleston, they couldn’t help but respond. This is the group’s first "out-of-territory" response.
"We don’t cover Charleston, but the day it happened I was flooded with e-mails from members (wanting to help) and we decided we couldn’t ignore it and had to do something," said Tac Argentinis, president of The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire. "Our board is accustomed to reacting very fast and after it was put to a vote we had a unanimous ‘yes.’"
Argentinis said a check was sent the next day for $9,000 to a fund for the firefighters. He said the response from members of the local club has been very positive, and said he plans to send another check sometime next week.
People from across the nation have been sending money to a fund in Charleston that will go to the firefighters’ families.
"I spoke to the director of finance for the City of Charleston Thursday morning…and as of 10 a.m. they had received $632,000 from people across the nation," Argentinis said. "When I explained to her who we are, she said ‘this is why we call Savannah a sister city,’ and she was crying."
Toby Roberts, a member of The 200 Club and member of the Bryan County Board of Commissioners, said the deaths of the firefighters in Charleston is a reminder of how service people risk their lives daily to keep people safe.
"It’s a devastating tragedy," Roberts said. "These public servants put their life on the line everyday."
Roberts said he felt sending money to the firefighters’ families was the least the group could do.
"(Our donation) is just a small thing that we can do not only for our local people but for the ones on other cities as well," he said.
Both Roberts and Argentinis said they feel the Charleston fund will reach the $1 million mark over the next week.
"I think people are responding simultaneously and that the donations will cross the $1 million mark," Argentinis said. "It won’t bring the loved ones back but it will show them that a lot of people care about them the best way we know how."Anyone who wishes to donate to the fund for the Charleston firefighters killed earlier this month may do so by sending a check marked with "Charleston Nine" to The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire, P.O. Box 779, Midway, Ga., 31320.
The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire started in Oct. 2000 and helps take care of the families of public safety personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty. They provide assistance to families in 18 Georgia counties and two in South Carolina close to Savannah.
For more information on the group or for information on joining the group, visit their web site at www.twohundredclub.org.