What is the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire and what is its purpose?
That question was one of many asked last Saturday when the organization held a cookout at Plantation Lumber which offered free hamburgers and soft drinks to the public.
The Two Hundred Club was founded in 2001 and its mission is all important to those serving the public as police officers and firefighters: the club, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to providing financial assistance to the surviving spouse and children of active firefighters and law enforcement officers in a 20-county area who lost their lives in the line-of-duty.
Yet, outside of Savannah and Chatham County few know little about the organization and what it takes to be a member thus the cookout which was designed to raise the club’s profile in Bryan County.
“It’s important for us to get out to these counties we serve and create awareness,” said Two Hundred Club President Mark Dana. “We are, of course, looking to increase our membership but we want to also let people know we are not just a Chatham County organization.”
Since its founding the Two Hundred Club, according to its website (twohundredclub.com) has given in excess of $3 million to families of fallen first responders to help with expenses including educational costs for both children and spouses.
“We currently have five kids in college,” Dana said. “We pay everything— tuition, room and board, books. One of those five is at Yale so we don’t limit where they can go to school.”
“We also appreciate Dallas (Daniel) for letting us set up on his parking lot. I know it’s been very disruptive to his business but he’s a strong supporter.”
The event ran from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., and there was a heavy traffic flow. Some, of course, wanted the free burger which was provided by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and soft drink provided by Coca-Cola. Others stopped out of curiosity.
The important thing to Dana was that everyone who stopped left with some information and knowledge of what the organization is all about and the area which it serves.
“We average raising $450,000 to $500,000 a year,” Dana said. “Ninety percent of our funding comes from Chatham County.
“We want to continue to grow in all of the counties we serve.”
In addition to Bryan and Chatham the Two Hundred Club assists when needed in Brantley, Bulloch, Camden, Candler, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Jenkins, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs and Wayne counties in Georgia and Beaufort and Jasper counties in South Carolina.
Membership levels range from $250 to $1,000 per year and Dana said anyone seeking information about joining can go to the club’s website. While the membership covers a wide range of avocations it comes as a surprise to some first responders that they, too, can join.
Bryan County Sheriff Mark Crowe was one of those becoming a new member and he said he won’t be the only member of the sheriff’s office that will be joining.
“I’ve known of the Two Hundred Club for some time,” Crowe said. “I have personal knowledge of two men close to me whose families experience a helping hand.
“What the Two Hundred Club does is extremely important within our profession and I encourage everyone to support it. I’m joining today and I’m going to encourage my staff to do so, too.”
Capt. Richard Fowler of the Richmond Hill Police Department became a member a year ago and he openly encourages other first responders to become members of the club which supports them in times of need.
“I knew about the Two Hundred Club but I did not know until last year first responders could join,” Fowler said. “They give first responders a discounted rate ($100). I joined and I challenged our entire command staff to join. I don’t know how many joined but I do know of two sheriff’s deputies and two EMS who have joined.
“Everything I’ve seen and learned about them is it’s a great organization who is there for our families.”
The two officers to whom Crowe was referring to was Bryan County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Larson (Dec. 10, 2006) and BCSO Deputy Sheriff Robert Crapse (June 15,2012). Both were killed by drunk drivers.
“Larson hit a drunk driver who was parked in the middle of the road,” said Crowe who has been a police officer since 1997 when he joined the BCSO. “Crapse was killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on I-95. They were both good friends.”
There are six other first responders from Bryan County on the club’s Wall of Service memorial. They are Dep. Richard Tatum, BCSO (Sept. 9, 2011), firefighter Terry Nelson, Bryan County Fire Dept. (Sept. 9, 2011), Dep. Dustin Rushing, BCSO (Oct. 7, 2011), Dep. George Tatum, BCSO (Feb. 7, 2015), firefighter/paramedic and Richmond Hill resident Mark Hummeldorf, Parris Island Fire Dept. (11/22/2017) and Det. Robert Linton, RHPD of a critical illness (May 8, 2019).