Tragedy may have been the impetus for the founding of the 100 Club, but it has gone on to help provide bright futures.
Founded in 1974 after a fire that took out six historic buildings in the 800 block of Main Avenue and killed firefighter Nick Parks III and Durango Police Department Cpl. Gale Emerson, the 100 Club began with a simple premise. Create a fund so that when those who serve our community as first responders are harmed or killed, we can immediately respond with financial aid to their families.
Members of the 100 Club have shown up with checks within 72 hours after deaths and injuries for the last 40 years, although, thankfully, there have been few of the former. They also provide some assistance when a family member of a first responder is hurt or killed.
Perhaps even better, they have given scholarships to the children of first responders, seven this year alone, with a goal of 15 to 20 annually.
Dues are $100 annually – hence the name. All of those $100 dues checks have accumulated, with careful shepherding, to a total of more than $680,000. As of the event, membership had grown to 371, up from 356 last year.
“We haven’t been hit by something huge, like the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona last year, and we hope we never are,” President Dean Brown said, “but we’re prepared if we are.”
The club held its 40th anniversary banquet Thursday at the Henry Strater Theatre.
The oversold crowd of about 145 included representatives from emergency services and law enforcement, 100 Club members, both longtime and brand new, as well as prospective members.
The chefs at the Strater continued their streak of delicious meals, serving mini-crabcakes with poblano chiles and pomegranate and Greek lamb meatballs for appetizers as the social hour took place. (More like a social hour and a half because everyone was having such a good time catching up.)
Dinner was a salad of field greens with Granny Smith apples, feta cheese, roasted pecans and sundried cranberries with a champagne vinaigrette, followed by lime-grilled salmon with sweet corn and peach salsa, prime grade herb-crusted flat iron steak with a pinot-shallot demi-glace, white cheddar, bacon and green onion scalloped potatoes and lemon and garlic asparagus. Dessert? An elegant chocolate mousse served in a wine goblet.
Six of the seven scholarship recipients were on hand and introduced by Scholarship Committee member Sheri Rochford Figgs. Bryan Bauer, son of Durango Fire Protection District firefighter Mark Bauer and his wife, Donna, wants to be a policeman. (Isn’t that against a code or something?) Amanda Dodge, who’s studying to be an exercise science specialist, and her sister Shandin Dodge, who’s pursuing a degree in environmental studies, are the daughters of La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Farrell Dodge and his wife, Shelly.
Caitlin Martin, daughter of Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Chad Martin, and his wife, Laura, has an entrepreneurial spirit and wants to own her own business. Austin Shupe, the son of Durango Police Department Lt. Ray Shupe and his wife, Rebecca, is pursuing one of those fast-growing disciplines, engineering. And Morgan Walts, son of Colorado State Patrol administrative assistant Brandi Walts and her husband, Geoff, is still considering majors but is leaning toward English and/or communications. Brittany Gillen, the seventh student, is the daughter of another sheriff’s deputy, Daniel Gillen and his wife, Sally. She’s off in Washington, D.C., doing her student teaching as an elementary education major.
One nice thing about the scholarships is that students can reapply for them every year as long as they maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average. (Something that’s always bothered me is how many scholarships are for freshmen only – but we actually want them to get their degrees, don’t we?)
The 100 Club also inducted lifetime members Gregg and Molly Martin, whose daughter, Bridget, thanked the club for the honor after Brown talked about how the children fight for their favorite causes when it comes to giving out money. “I won,” she said about the donation to the club.
Bud and Cindy Smith were also named lifetime members, as was Seasons Rotisserie & Grill owner Karen Barger, whose annual fundraiser Burnin’ Down the House benefits the club in gratitude to the firefighters who responded to the fire at her restaurant in 2008.
The night also marked the first time membership of soon-to-be-Sheriff Sean Smith and the man he has selected to serve as undersheriff, Frank Sandoval. Smith said outgoing Sheriff Duke Schirard has been graciously helping them with the transition. Smith also pledged a stronger alliance with the 100 Club, which has been so generous to his department.
Thanks to all of you for your service.
If you’re interested in becoming a member of the 100 Club, visit www.durango100club.com or mail your check to P.O. Box 3146, Durango, CO 81302.
Here’s hoping these folks get at least some birthday recognition, even though friends and family are in Thanksgiving mode – Karen Siegrist, Alison Epstein, Nancy Loftis, Kathie Hudson, Marty Rabeno, Greg Farley, Nancy Shipps, Dawn Spaeder, Barbara Elliott, Tabitha Heckman, David Kolb, Gary Penington and Jill Shuman.
My ears are still echoing with the glories of opera thanks to the San Juan Symphony, Durango Choral Society and Caliente Community Chorus and their Opera Celebration on Sunday.
Conductor Linda Mack Berven promised drinking, dancing, disguises, deception and delight, delivering on all five.
I couldn’t decide whether to give it an “Olé” for Cory McKern’s “Toreador Song” from “Carmen” or the more traditional “Bravo,” for everything else. McKern may be the finest baritone I have ever heard at a Durango performance, or pretty much any performance, for that fact. And of course, Gemma Kavanagh, with some sort of magic known only to her, keeps becoming a more pure and lovely soprano every time I hear her.
The symphony and choral society could have carried the performance all by themselves, of course – a fact that tends to get lost with such talented soloists. The annual collaboration between the two organizations is always one of the highlights of our local musical scene, and this year was no exception.
If this concert made you come to a new appreciation of opera, don’t miss The Metropolitan Opera’s broadcasts that are brought to Durango by the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. They not only provide drinking, dancing, disguises, delight and deception, but the spectacle of a production by one of the world’s major opera companies. (And if it didn’t bring you to a new appreciation of opera, you must have gone to a different concert.)
Thanks for a wonderful afternoon of music.