Good Cause: Hundred Club of DuPage County

Lisa Savegnago
Lisa Savegnago

Fire Chief Andy Bonomo had to work fast when he learned Wayne Pauley, one of his firefighters in Lombard, had been run over in a roadway accident.

Bonomo sat with Pauley’s wife at the hospital after the 2006 accident when she told him she didn’t know what she was going to do when the bills started to come in and they were without her husband’s income.

“I knew about the Hundred Club, so I wrote a letter asking for help from the board,” Bonomo said.

When firefighters and law enforcement personnel get injured, sick or sometimes killed, the Hundred Club of DuPage County steps in and provides assistance when their families need help.

In the Pauley family’s case, a check was issued within two weeks.

“This offset some of their bills that were multiplying so quickly,” Bonomo said.

While Pauley has since recovered from the injuries to most of his body, he was off work for several years undergoing rehab to return to work.

The now 49-year-old firefighter works for the York Center Fire Department and knows how important the assistance his wife and children received while he was off work for that period of time.

“The family was very overwhelmed with the funds they received,” Bonomo said.

But the support didn’t stop there. The club followed up later to see if the family needed more financial assistance.

Lisa Savengago, who has served as president of the organization since 2006, acknowledged that DuPage County has been lucky.

“We are very blessed that we haven’t had a lot of in-line duty deaths in DuPage County — 10 since 1982, so we also found another need,” she said.

That need is the compassion benefit, the financial support that Pauley’s family received after he was injured.

“If something else happens to a firefighter or police officer,” she said, “like they get cancer and need to take leave and need help, we help out the family that way, too.”

The organization works with fire and police liaisons in the county who screen the letters requesting support, which are then forwarded to the board. Once the request is approved, the money is distributed as quickly as possible to aid the family.

The most challenging part of the organization is raising funds.

“We are one of the best-kept secrets of DuPage County,” Savengago said.

The board is working to raise the charity’s profile to bring more members and corporate support. A recent event in Naperville featured Tom Dreesen, the comedian who served as Frank Sinatra’s opening act. The event raised $25,000 for the Hundred Club.

Karl Ottosen, who serves as secretary, is part of the Ottosen Britz Kelly Cooper Gilbert and Dinolfo law firm based in Naperville.

“Our firm has a strong presence in local government on the public safety side of things,” Ottosen said.

When one partner was asked to be on the board and couldn’t make it, Ottosen stepped in, believing it was important to support what firefighting and law enforcement personnel do.

The DuPage County chapter is patterned after the original chapter in Detroit where a young office was killed in the line of duty, leaving behind a pregnant wife. A local car dealer asked 100 of his friends to make a contribution to help the family.

There are other chapters in the area, including one in Cook County, but no national governing body. They simply seek funds to help as aid is needed.

And because of what happened to him, Pauley tries to help the Hundred Club in any way he can.

“Whatever they need, whatever the family needs, they are there,” said Pauley, who donates when he can to the club.

He was sure about another question, too. He would return to work as a firefigher.

“It’s the best job in the world,” he said. “And I gave 100 percent to get back to the job.”

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How to help

To learn more about and donate to the Hundred Club of DuPage County, visit hundredclubofdupage.org

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