“The purpose of this living memorial is to ensure the individuals represented will be remembered not merely as victims, but as people with stories and dreams,” says Cheryl Branch, executive director of SAFE Shelter. “Then they fell in love with someone and that person killed them.”
A private screening of a blockbuster movie will raise funds for a worthy cause. Mission: Impossible III will be presented May 7 at 3 p.m. at Trustees Theater to benefit the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire. It’s a local charity that raises money to provide financial help for families of fallen firefighters and law enforcement officers. “The motto of the Two Hundred Club is ‘We care for those who care for us,’” says Tak Argentinis, the club’s co-founder. “This event is a way of expressing community gratitude for those people who put their lives at risk for our safety.” The club is patterned after other clubs located throughout the country. Argentinis is himself the father of a fallen police officer, Christopher Argentinis, who left a wife and two small sons when he was killed in the line of duty in December 1999 in Massachusetts. Realizing there was no such group in this area, Argentinis joined forces with his friends, Brooks Stillwell and Harry Haslam, to form the club. It was incorporated in October 2000 to help families in Savannah and 20 surrounding counties. This is the third year a benefit screening of a new Hollywood movie has been held to raise money for the Two Hundred Club. That is due to the efforts of board member Stratton Leopold. Leopold is a bonafide Hollywood producer who divides his time between Los Angeles and his native Savannah. He arranged previous screenings of The Sum of All Fears and Paycheck to benefit the Two Hundred Club, and also arranged the screening of Mission: Impossible III, which stars Tom Cruise. “I have two relatives in law enforcement,” Leopold says. “I know some of the challenges they face.” When Leopold raised the possibility of doing a movie screening to raise money, other club members were excited. “I talked to the studio. I’ve done a number of pictures at Paramount over the past eight years,” Leopold says. “I explained the club to them, that everything is donated. There are no paid employees, everything is pro bono. They thought it was a great idea.” While the first two screenings were of major motion pictures, the screening of Mission: Impossible III is particularly exciting. “This picture is very high profile,” says Leopold, who is executive producer of the film. “This is the largest picture I’ve ever done,” he says. “In fact, it’s the largest picture the studio has ever done.” To arrange the screening, Leopold asked permission of Cruise, producer Paula Wagner and director J.J. Abrams. “All of them said, ‘That’s a great benefit,’” Leopold says. “People are going to see a fantastic film. If was filmed on three continents. It’s action-packed with a wonderful story,” he says. “The story is there because of J.J. Abrams, who created Alias, Lost and Felicity,” Leopold says. “This is his first feature film. He’s a great man to be around. After everything settles down, I’d like to get J.J. to Savannah, particularly because of SCAD. He’s the kind of guy who regards students very highly.” The screening isn’t the only aspect of the benefit. Maria Lancaster of the Savannah Music Festival is a volunteer for the club. “There’s going to be an exclusive interview with executive producer Stratton Leopold prior to the screening,” Lancaster says. “It will be followed by a short video describing what the 200 Club is.” A “patriotic walk” down Broughton Street will follow the screening. “There will be a small band or ensemble leading the way,” Lancaster says. “Four to six fire trucks will be strategically placed so that their ladders form a V,” she says. “At the top will be American flags. All the members of the 200 Club will walk, plus there will be police officers and firefighters, and families of fallen police officers and firefighters. The sponsors will come next.” The march will end at the bluff at Trustees Garden, where a tent will be erected. A barbecue will be held there. Lancaster says the Two Hundred Club begins helping families of fallen firefighters and police officers immediately. “It is based on the financial situation of the family,” she says. “First, they give them a check to help them with housing and food,” Lancaster says. “Then they analyze their finances, and depending on that, may pay off their credit cards or mortgage, or give them relief from the mortgage for two years. “Children also are provided financial assistance,” she says. “By the time they enter college, the club will help them get tuition breaks. The Two Hundred Club will assist them with whatever is not covered.” Without such help, a family can quickly become destitute, Lancaster says. “Depending on the union they belong to, some officers don’t even have a pension,” she says. But the club’s help isn’t just financial. “On every Mother’s Day, the wife is sent a rose,” Lancaster says. “At Christmas and Thanksgiving, the families are given money toward a meal,” she says. “The children are given savings bonds.” Lancaster became a volunteer because she sees the need for such an organization. “I see the tremendous service the police officers and firefighters do for the community,” she says. “Every day, they touch our lives and make them safer. “To hear there might be a family that is left destitute is not fair,” Lancaster says. “They go into very dangerous situations. This gives them a secure feeling that someone cares for them and if something happens, they will help their families.” Some One Hundred Clubs and Two Hundred Clubs have been in existence for 20 years or more. While the local one is much newer, it already is helping families. “Our mission is to make the financial tragedy of surviving families of fallen heroes, who sacrifice their lives while protecting ours, is not as deep and long-lasting as their personal one,” says Charles Morris, chairman of the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire. “We owe that to them.”
A benefit premiere that will feature the private screening of the Hollywood blockbuster Mission: Impossible III will be held Sunday, May 7 at 3 p.m. at Trustees Theater.
The price to attend the benefit, which includes the screening and a barbecue, is $150 per person, of which $125 is deductible. Reservations can be made by calling Mike McCarthy at 527-3319 or email@example.com.
Tickets for the movie only are $25 per person, of which $20 is deductible. Tickets for firefighters and law enforcement personnel are $5. To buy tickets, call the SCAD Box Office at 525-5050.
Sponsorships are available at levels ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. For information on sponsorships, call Lowell Kronowitz at 443-5903.