Over the decades, the 100 Club has given out millions to families and surviving spouses and children of fallen heroes. But last week, Eyewitness News exposed rules within the 100 Club that prevented the families of single firefighters without children from getting any benefits.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the 100 Club announced some big changes to its policy.
The group will now deliver $20,000 checks to the to the executor of the estate of a law officer or a firefighter killed in the line of duty immediately afterwards, and that includes the recent deaths. Then for those with no dependents -- meaning no spouse or children -- they will make an assessment of needs and pay any outstanding debt.
The 100 Club says it will give money to the most recently involved families and will deliver those checks to the Houston Fire Department on Wednesday for distribution. They will also give a refund to anyone who feels misled in the wake of the controversy.
"Quite frankly, we were blindsided and overwhelmed by all this attention that we got," 100 Club President Randy Russell said. "This is unprecedented. We never had this much attention before. We never intentionally deceived anyone."
All of this comes after four firefighters died in a southwest Houston motel fire on May 31. It was the deadliest day in the history of the Houston Fire Department and it was something that the 100 Club had rarely faced.
None of the firefighters killed in that blaze had a spouse or children, but their pictures were used in fundraising drives encouraging people to donate to the 100 Club. In fact, $650,000 has been donated since that fire.
After Eyewitness News first reported that group likely would not be sending families a dime of that money, the 100 Club decided to make an exeception for those firefighters.
But now, going forward, the group says it will change that policy.
However, as it relates to Eyewitness News' reporting, the group questioned our intentions in bringing all this up.
"I have to tell you that this media frenzy last week is almost unfathomable to me," Russell said. "Personally, I question the motives of those who've attacked. This is a serious matter."
Russell said he was not questioning the families who talked to Eyewitness News about the controversy but questioning our motives directly. We asked him to clarify and he declined.
One board member, after Tuesday's news conference, said we were driven by ratings, not by anything else.
We spoke to the family of one of the fallen firefighters, and he said this does not repair the damage in his mind and added it should not have come to this.
The families who were directly impacted by all of this have not been called by the 100 Club since the day after the fire and they have not yet been told about the policy changes announced Tuesday.
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