With thousands of nonprofits looking for the public’s help to stay afloat, it can be a daunting task to decide where to put donation dollars to good use. The average citizen can rarely be sure their contribution is used as it was intended, but the 100 Club of Southeast Texas spent the month of May showing its supporters exactly where their money is being utilized, highlighting the peace officers and firefighters who are the focal point of the 100 Club. Organization president Jon Reaud and 100 Club staffers from the region chose May, which is officially 100 Club Awareness Month, as a kick-off point to get the word out about the work of the nonprofit, and to bring new members into the fold.For its effort, the 100 Club of Southeast Texas was awarded proclamations from the cities of Orange and Beaumont where each municipality pledged support of the organization and praised the 100 Club volunteers for their endeavors.
In the beginning
When Beaumont Officer Paul Hulsey Jr. was shot and killed while investigating a car theft in March 1988, his wife and children were left not only with unparalleled emotional pain, but also with financial woes and little to no way to provide for those needs. Enter the 100 Club of Jefferson County. Seeing the need, philanthropists and business leaders organized the local chapter of the 100 Club and started a mission that has only grown in the past two-plus decades.
“Now the state government and the federal government each pay a quarter million dollars to survivors,” Reaud said of the advances made in caring for our first responders since the 1980s. “Back when we started the 100 Club, those insurances weren’t available. When (the 100 Club) came up with $50,000 to help that family – there really wasn’t anything in place to take care of the wife and children in that case.”
And although insurance has come in to eventually provide financial relief to the survivors of police officers killed on duty, the 100 Club is with the officer’s spouse or children within 24 hours of the incident to give immediate support where it is most needed.
“We try to come in quickly to give them enough money to pay their bills and get them through this time,” Reaud said. “The 100 Club serves a definite purpose in allowing the spouse some sense of normalcy for the next 2 or 3 months while they try to get their lives put back together.”
Expanding the family
After getting the organization started in Jefferson County, 100 Club members decided to expand its efforts and include outlying areas of the Golden Triangle. In 1996, the group brought in Hardin County law enforcement. Ten years later, the group added firefighters to the list of beneficiaries. In April 2010, another addition was made to the growing 100 Club by adding Orange County to the team, giving rise to the new and improved 100 Club of Southeast Texas. Fundraisers, private donations and memberships keep the nonprofit in business, allowing for the death benefit and bronze plaques of appreciation for the officers’ sacrifice that hang in their memory. Membership in the 100 Club is a mixed bag of first responders and private citizens who contribute the $100 annual donation to allow officers the peace of mind in knowing that if they don’t return home from their shift, at least their spouse and children will be cared for.
Recently, the Club has started accepting corporate memberships, with several agencies jumping at the opportunity to take part in the 100 Club mission of goodwill.
During the May 100 Club membership drive, Philpott Motors general manger Bob Thuman presented 100 Club Vice President Zack Shelton a check for $2,305, representing a quarter year of employee contributions to the group. Also adding to the corporate partnership pool were the YMBL and Quality Mat Company, whose joint gift of $50,000 was enough to sponsor the dependent family of an officer or firefighter in time of need.
“We are very happy to be able to partner with Quality Mat and support the 100 Club of Southeast Texas,” said Mark McAdams, 2012 President of the YMBL. “Being able to do this together will hopefully encourage other local business and organizations similar to the YMBL to do this sort of thing together.”
The YMBL made the contribution from funds garnered through the 11-day South Texas State Fair, the YMBL’s only annual fundraiser.
Not to be outdone by community supporters, the firefighters of Beaumont Firefighters Local #399 presented the 100 Club with a check in the amount of $15,000. The donation will also allow for 60 lifetime memberships for members of the firefighters’ union. More than half of Beaumont Firefighters Local No. 399 are now lifetime members.But, as always, the more help the better.
“We don’t have enough money in the coffers if, say, a tragedy occurs that claims the lives of multiple police and firefighters at one time,” Reaud said. “These are things we need to prepare for. We pray it isn’t needed, but we want the funds there if it is.
“I’m trying to take it to the next level.”
Reaud said education is the key to get new members on board. Membership dues are minimal, and the beneficiaries are heroes – both good incentives for potential donors. Police officer and firefighter memberships are just $25 for a year and $250 for a lifetime. Private membership is $100 a year or $1,000 for a lifetime.
A packed foyer in the Beaumont Police Department gave a small glimpse into the love and admiration felt by the loved ones of Officer Bryan Hebert, killed in the line of duty July 8, 2011. Hebert was described by all who knew him as a caring and giving man, dedicating his life to service as a peace officer to protect the community he called home. Along with Hebert’s friends, family and fellow police officers, the 100 Club was there. The volunteers of the 100 Club had not only assisted with fiduciary help for the Hebert family, but commissioned a bronze plaque of the officer to serve as a reminder of the officer’s sacrifice for generations to come.
“We slept better at night knowing someone like Officer Bryan Hebert was out there to protect us,” Reaud said at the plaque’s unveiling. “It’s only right that we support our officers, just like we want them to support us.”
Since its inception, the local 100 Club has commissioned seven plaques, five for Beaumont Police officers and two for game wardens killed in their official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department peace officer duties.