100 Club rules hinders help for fallen firefighters' families

June 27, 2013 3:12:27 AM PDT
The images the Houston Fire Department's deadliest day are hard to forget, as are the four faces of the fallen firefighters, the city mourned at a massive memorial service.

The tragedy inspired donations across the state and across the country from people wanting to help the families of the fallen. But now we're learning that other than funeral expenses, those families may never see a dime.

It is impossible to question the good the 100 Club has done in its 61 years of operation. They've committed to pay college tuition for the children of an firefighter injured in the motel fire and will likely help that family more in the future.

But they haven't paid any benefits to the families of the fallen, and because of their rules, they likely never will.

In May, four of Huston's bravest lost their lives. And before we even said goodbye, Houstonians and generous Texans all over the state stepped up to help. The 100 Club, a charity designed to help surviving spouses and children of the fallen, said they'd received more donations after this fire than after any other tragedy in the group's history.

But now, the families of the fallen have received no benefits and they likely never will.

"We have offered up to $20,000 to each of those families," said Rick Hartley with the 100 Club.

"How much have you paid out?" we asked.

"We haven't heard from them yet," he said.

"So you haven't paid out anything?"

"Not yet."

The 100 Club helps surviving spouses and children, and none of the four fallen firefighters had either. They were all single and childless, but according to their union president, still needy.

"I think it's important the 100 Club be clear, much more clear, about how the funds are actually distributed," said Jeff Caynon with the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Within hours of their deaths, the 100 Club said it was already helping the families of the fallen. And in the days after, prominent Houstonians encouraged us all to give. The fire department directed Houstonians to the 100 Club.

The firefighters union chief said it would go to the families. The Houston Texans donated $25,000 to help families of the fallen. Even Mayor Parker encouraged donations to help the families of the victims on her Facebook page and tweeted donations in honor of the fallen firefighters should be directed to the 100 Club.

And even now, there is a billboard with the faces of the fallen and the 100 Club logo. The organization says that was done without their knowledge or permission.

"I am sure there are a lot of people who have done various types fundraisers who said it was going to the families of fallen heroes who did not know that," Hartley said.

But until we asked late Wednesday afternoon, the group hadn't done anything to correct the widespread, but mistaken notion that the money generous Houstonians were giving was going to the families of the fallen.

"If I were them, I'd take a really hard look at it," Caynon said.

The group could change its rules, but there is no plan to do so.

The 100 Club reminds us the families of the fallen are eligible for insurance, union and state benefits that likely climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Find Ted on Facebook at ABC13TedOberg or on Twitter at @tedoberg


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