On December 11, 1999, 36-year-old Christopher Argentinis said goodbye to his family and reported for duty as a patrolman with the Wareham Police Department in Massachusetts. He would never return home. Struck by a car while in a foot chase with a wanted drug offender, Chris succumbed to head injuries two days later, leaving a wife and two young sons, ages 6 and 4, to mourn his sudden loss.
For months following his son’s death, Tak Argentinis felt paralyzed by grief. Even today, as he sits across from me at a conference room table at his Midway, Georgia-based company, Elan Technology, Tak pauses frequently to regain composure as he speaks about Chris and the commendable 11 years he spent on the force. Yet after returning to his downtown Savannah home following the funeral and time spending time with the family in Massachusetts, Tak says he found himself fixating upon an experience he had following Chris’s wake.
“The other officers were telling my daughter-in law, ‘Don’t worry, the One Hundred Club will take care of you, but they didn’t know what it was,” he remembers. “Christopher’s police chief told him that it was a secret society of businessmen.” Then, several days later, an organization named the One Hundred Club of Massachusetts quietly presented Chris’s widow with a large check. Being in a position to fully support his family, Tak contacted the mysterious club to return the gifted money, but the organization refused to take it back. “They told me ‘No, it is in honor of your son,” he says. “I was a basket case, but I was very intrigued, so I started researching.”
With a little digging, Tak found that the One Hundred Club of Massachusetts is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing immediate, no-strings-attached financial support to the families of law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. The concept dates back to 1952, when a Detroit businessman and 100 of his friends banded together to fully relieve the financial burdens belonging to the pregnant widow of a young police officer fatally shot after serving an arrest warrant to a felon. The One Hundred Club of Detroit eventually inspired over 120 independent organizations carrying out the same objective throughout the United States, while asking for nothing in return. But at the time of Tak’s research, there was no such club representing Savannah and the Coastal Empire.
Christopher Argentinis always wanted to be a police officer, in fact, he would remind his father Tak of this quite often. It was this passion that led Christopher to realize his dream and join the Wareham, MA Police Department. On December 11, 1999 having spent 12 years serving his community and while working undercover in a narcotics task force, Christopher and his family made the ultimate sacrifice. A Hero is defined as “a person who puts his life on the line to protect others”, however, Christopher was much more than a Hero. Christopher was a devoted Father, husband and servant to the community he loved.
Days after Christopher was laid to rest, The 100 Club of Massachusetts met with Christopher’s widow and described what they do and why they do it. This was generous offer to help the family with any financial obligations in honor of Christopher. A noble and honorable gesture directly from the same community that Christopher bravely and fiercely protected for more than a decade.
Tak and Renee Argentinis moved to the Savannah, GA area to begin their next life chapter and develop what is now a very successful business. With the loss of their son still demanding all of their thoughts and prayers, they decided to bring that noble and honorable gesture to this area. Tak enlisted the help of local Attorney Brooks Stillwell and businessman Harry Haslam, and developed what is now a very powerful 501c3 non-profit called the 200 Club. The 200 Club cares for the family members in a 20 County area of Georgia and South Carolina. The organization is 100% voluntarily operated to ensure all the proceeds go to the family members it proudly serves. Tak became the organizations first President and served alongside Charles Morris, its first Chairman for nearly 12 years.
“I wanted to give what I could to these family members” recalled Tak, “I did this for selfish reasons, I did this to honor my son, Christopher”. Tak’s emotional tone tells a much larger story of the pride he has for the dedication Christopher had for so many he had helped. Nearly 22 years after the Club’s first response to the family of Bulloch County Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Wilbur Berry, the 200 Club has provided over $3.8 million dollars in contributions to the families of its “fallen heroes” including fully paid college education. Additionally, the Club provides meals for the families during the holidays and a dozen roses on Mother’s Day. “We care for those who care for us” says Argentinis as he recalls responding to Bulloch County and meeting with Judy Berry, wife of twenty-year Sheriff’s Sergeant, Wilbur Berry. “We sat together and shared stories of two great men” recalled Tak. Twenty years, Sergeant Berry gave to his community without any expectations other than making sure he protected the citizenry and made it home to his family. May 19, 2001 while serving an arrest warrant, Sergeant Wilbur Lewis Berry gave his life in an attempt to protect innocents from evil and never made it home. “The 200 Club is standing by, ‘Today, Tomorrow, and Always'” says Argentinis as the organization maintains contact with 28 families and has provided 16 family members with fully paid college education as well as six who are currently attending college.