June 20, 2005 — Police Commissioner Elton Lewis announced the formation of a new citizens group organized to aid the department by providing immediate financial support to the families of police officers seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. The announcement was made Monday at a video press conference broadcast between the St. Thomas and St. Croix police complexes.
The new group, called the St. Thomas 100 Club, was founded by Trip Lea, John Krieg, Jimmy Gallivan and William L. Graham.
Lewis said he began talking with the group after police officer Cuthbert Chapman was gunned down on April 17, 2004, in a foiled robbery attempt at Wendy's Restaurant in the Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St. Croix. Chapman died nine days later in a Puerto Rico hospital.
The club's founding members explained that the 100 Club's mission is threefold: 1) to assist dependents of police officers who are killed in the line of duty; 2) to provide the VIPD with life-protecting equipment that cannot be secured through budgeted funds; and 3) to provide law enforcement with educational opportunities.
Lewis explained that previously, no funds were earmarked to give to families of officers killed in the line of duty. "These funds were garnered by donations and fundraisers," Lewis said.
Following the death of Chapman, the VIPD launched a drive for the Chapman Family Aid Fund to benefit the family of the slain police officer. The one-day effort raised about $25,000. (See "Drive Raises $25K for Family of Slain Officer".)
Territorial Police Chief Novelle Francis, who was present at the meeting, said he has worked on at least three cases where officers have lost their lives in the line of duty.
"There is tremendous pressure on the family when they lose their primary breadwinner," Francis said. "An immediate infusion of cash will go a long way for their piece of mind."
"The fund enables the public to be involved; it enriches the community," said Dee Baecher-Brown, president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI).
Membership dues are the primary way the club acquires donations. "The dues are given not as charity but in the spirit of appreciation for those who have risked their lives protecting our families," Lea said.
There are four levels of membership: regular membership at $200 annually; lifetime membership for a one-time payment of $2,000; business membership at $1,000 annually; and business lifetime membership for a one-time payment of $3,000.
Donations are tax deductible and members receive an automobile decal and/or a decal to display at their place of business.
Already soliciting donations, the 100 Club has presently raised about $8,000. The fund will be managed by CFVI, and a board of directors will determine how the funds will be used.
"The framework has already been established, we won't be reinventing the wheel," Lewis said.
Presently the group is only active in the St. Thomas/St. John district. However, Lewis said that he has been in contact with individuals in St. Croix who are interested in starting a group on that island. He said each district will contribute to its own fund.
Contributions can be made to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, in care of the V.I. 100 Club Fund, P.O. Box 11790, St. Thomas, USVI 00801.
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