INTRODUCTIONS: Meet Mark Dana

TAKING CARE OF THOSE WHO TAKE CARE OF US -

Mark Dana with Tak Argentinis

Mark Dana, knows all about supporting, protecting, and taking care of people. Through a lifetime of service and hospitality, he now focuses those same attributes in “retirement” as the CEO and President of The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire.

Before moving to Savannah in 1995 with his wife, Frances, and their two children, Dana spent over 8 years in law enforcement in Pompano Beach, FL, and Winston-Salem, NC. Upon arrival in The Hostess City, Dana managed hotels until he became a managing partner of a company which owned 12 hotels.

“I started a company called Savannah Lodging with the same partnerships and grew it up to be a premiere hotel and hospitality company,” Dana proudly said. “We sold that in December 2021 and I’m now the full-time president and CEO of The 200 Club.”

Prior to doing the job at The 200 Club, full time, Dana served as the volunteer president for 13 years. 

“I was running the hotel company, but I also operated and financially supported the administration and all expenses related to the administration of the organization [200 Club] for 13 years.” He laughed and added, “I probably do more now in retirement than I did before.”

The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire is a 501(c) (3) organization who “cares for those who care for us” by providing significant financial assistance for surviving spouses and dependents of first responders who have lost their lives or sustained critical injuries in the line of duty.

“We have a lot going on,” Dana said. “The organization serves a 20-county area in two states—Georgia and South Carolina, about 10,000 men and women in uniform. All proceeds from [events] will directly support the families of fallen heroes and provides significant financial assistance to the surviving family members.”

Dana continued, “We know it’s not a matter of it, but when we going to lose one of our first responders in one of those counties. Most certainly, we will have a critical injury or terminal illness we’ll have to respond to.”

It isn’t just a mere response The 200 Club makes. They take on a first responder’s family in need as if they’re blood relatives. And, it goes back to founding of the organization.

Dana shares the backstory that led to The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire. “The owner of Elan Technologies in Midway was in the upper hierarchy in General Electric in Massachusetts and his son was a police officer, married with two children. Sadly, his son was killed in the line of duty. The 100 Club of Massachusetts met with the family and said they’d take care of them. The owner said for them to please, respectfully, use the money for another family and they told him that wasn’t the way things worked. So, they insisted. He learned more about the organization, what they did, and how they did it. He was so impressed that when he moved—started—his company to Midway in 2001, he got together with a few other businessmen, investors, and attorneys and formed The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire.”

“A couple months after they started it, there were a couple of [first responder] deaths in Baldwin County. They responded—not in a fashion as we do today, because they didn’t have the funds,” Dana explained. “Today, we take care of the debt of the surviving family—children and spouse. We provide fully paid college education which includes tuition, room and board, books, utilities, and anything else needed for school. Right now, we have 7 families in college with one student at Yale and another at Barnard. We pay all of their expenses.”

Since starting in 2001, The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire is closing on $4 million in monies provided to the families served, Dana shared. “Also, we decided about 10 years ago to start responding to critical injuries, off-duty deaths, and terminal illnesses with one-time contributions to surviving families.”

“It’s a tremendous honor to respond,” Dana said. “We have a lot of stories. Our website is a great resource for where families talk about their experiences. They’re obviously very thankful. We keep in touch with them throughout the years. In fact,” he added, “we never really go away.”

The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire serves over 100 families, including 29 line of duty deaths and the remainder with critical injuries and terminal illness. 

“We have a lot of family members with young children and we have to make sure they can go to college when they’re ready and have that opportunity.”

In order to continue their mission, the organization has partnered with the Grainger Companies to raise money for the club.

“Bill Grainger, owner of Grainger Honda and Nissan, donated a brand new (choice of) Honda CRV/Nissan Rouge – and he’s also paying all the sales tax associated with whoever wins it,” Dana said. “So, whoever wins—and they don’t have to be present to win—gets to drive it off the lot.”

The drawing is Labor Day weekend, September 3, and tickets are $100 each. Tickets may be purchased on The 200 Club’s website. There will also be a free-to-the-community cookout hosted at Grainger Nissan/Honda. Dana said there will be hamburgers and hot dogs provided by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

“You can purchase a book of ten tickets or you can get individual ones,” Dana said. “However, we’re only selling 1,000 tickets. We’re not going to change the odds for someone winning even if ticket sales explode.”

“Because of the generosity that Bill Grainger has shown toward our mission, we want to make sure we honor their donation,” he said.

“Please buy a ticket today to support the families we serve – the tickets won’t last long!” Dana said.

Support from the community is paramount to the success of an organization like The 200 Club, Dana said. “Because of sacrifice.”

“There are two main sacrifices that everyone needs to keep in mind when talking about first responders,” he began. “There’s the sacrifice of the individual who wears the uniform whether they go into a fully involved burning building with the mass of the building collapsing upon them and then there’s sacrifice of the one in the uniform who goes into a domestic disturbance or a high-risk vehicle stop with the high risk of being shot and killed—which is sadly happening almost daily in this county.”

“The other sacrifice is the one made by the family members,” he added. “Saying goodbye to your loved one and not knowing if they’re coming home each and every day, each and every shift, is a lot of anxiety and emotions. The community, I hope, recognizes that and can see the opportunity where, God forbid, if anything does happen, they can be part of helping a family cope financially and setting the children and spouse up for success in whatever they desire.”

Dana understands from a personal and professional level. 

“Having been a police officer, I lost my field training officer who was killed in the line of duty on a high risk home entry. I also lost my lieutenant. We didn’t have anything like this [back] then. We had to chip in and pass the hat or we could just help pay for the funeral expense.”

“Knowing something like The 200 Club exists now is great because [anyone] can be a part of it. You can be a member for $20 a month. I mean, if you’re paying for Netflix at home, then you should feel good about also doing this for families for only $20 a month,” he said.

He stressed how anyone can get involved. “You can help shepherd the message out there about what we’re doing and why we do it. To see kids graduate… I mean, having 7 kids in college is like having 7 of your own kids in college.”

“It’s an honor to be able to do this,” he repeated. “See, you always have to understand and be aware that it’s not a matter of if, but when our next tragedy will occur. We hope to be statewide someday, but now, we are a part of helping the families and supporting our mission of caring for those who care for us.”

For more information, go to our200club.com, call 912-721-4418, or email [email protected].



     
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