The widow of Liberty County Sheriff Deputy John "Jay" Smiley paid it forward last week when she presented a $6,500 donation to the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire. The money was raised at a golf tournament held in Smiley’s memory on Nov. 20, at Cherokee Rose Country Club. The late deputy’s family and friends helped organize the event.
"This is the second year the tournament was held in my husband’s name," Catherine Smiley said. "We donated the money to the Two Hundred Club in his name."
Catherine Smiley received a $5,000 donation from the club nearly two years ago when her husband died suddenly from a heart attack. She said she was grateful for the award, as it helped her pay for funeral expenses and other bills resulting from her husband’s untimely death at age 45. She has four children, three from a previous marriage and one, a 2-½ year-old girl, from her marriage to her late husband.
The Two Hundred Club assists families of law enforcement officers and fire fighters who die in the line of duty or suffer critical injuries, club member and Hinesville Police Department Det. Tracey Howard said.
The club also offers a one-time monetary award to those who die off duty, like Smiley and LCSO Deputy Jon Robin Glandon Jr., who died in 2009 after battling cancer, Two Hundred Club President Tak Argentinis said.
The club’s mission is "to show gratitude to those in the community who protect us," Argentinis said.
"My husband was born and raised here," Smiley said. "He knew a lot of people in the community. Jay was very well liked. He was the type of person who would help out anybody and always gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. He would do anything himself to help anybody in need. His job gave him the opportunity to help others."
Smiley said before her husband’s passing, she was not aware of the Two Hundred Club or their mission. Now she is happy to help the club assist other families of fallen law enforcement officers and fire fighters.
The regional club has 300 dues-paying members from as far north as Beaufort, S.C. and as far south as Jacksonville, Fla., Argentinis said. Argentinis, Brooks Stillwell and Harry Haslam founded the club in 2000, according to the club’s website. They patterned the club after the Hundred Club of Detroit, the Hundred Club of Massachusetts and the Three Hundred Club of Atlanta, according to www.twohundredclub.org.
"The club in Detroit started way back when an automobile manufacturer saw a story in the newspaper that the home of a slain police officer was being foreclosed on," Howard said. "He wanted to help so he paid the mortgage on the house for the family."
The club is a not-for-profit, independent organization, Argentinis explained.
"We’re all independent of each other," he said. "We’re all volunteers. We pay no salaries, we pay no overhead expenses. One hundred percent of the funds we raise go to the families."
"Within one week of a fatality, the Two Hundred Club provides the surviving spouse – or if no spouse survives, then to a dependent child – a check for $10,000 to take care of any immediate needs," according to the club’s website. "In approximately two weeks the Two Hundred Club ascertains the family’s debts and pays them off up to an additional $15,000. The children and the spouses are eligible for educational assistance. Every year thereafter, the Two Hundred Club sends birthday and Christmas U.S. Treasury bonds to the (surviving) children, money for Thanksgiving and Christmas, family dinners and red roses on Mother’s Day."
Since the club began 10 years ago, it has provided benefits to 38 families of fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters, Argentinis said.
"We have given out more than $600,000 so far," he said.
For more information, visit www.twohundredclub.org.