Masonic Lodges Helping Parents Prepare For The Unthinkable – A Missing Child
Ingalls Field, VA – Masonic Grand Lodges across North America are helping parents and grandparents be ready to face the unthinkable – a child that’s gone missing. The Lodges are training their members to create children’s identification kits that contain not only the child’s vital statistics such as age, weight, hair and eye color, but also a DNA sample, a video and a voiceprint. Glen Bryant is a member of the 23rd Masonic District of Virginia. He was part of the team creating kits during the recent Wings and Wheels festival in Bath County. He explains why the free kit is a critical tool for a parent to have.
“It’s something that the law enforcement can use directly for AMBER alerts” he says. “When you’re missing a child, you don’t have time to think about how tall they were or how much they weighed; all this information is on there, and it goes directly to the AMBER alert.”
The program has come a long way since the 1980’s when Masonic Lodges first started paying for identification kits with just fingerprints and a Polaroid picture. Fast forward three decades to what is now a state of the art system that an estimated 1.5 million plus parents have taken advantage of. Though spread out across the country, Virginia is one of only a handful to states where the program is offered.
“These computers are right expensive, and so far the Allegheny County Sheriff’s department has bought us the first one, and the Bath County Sheriff, I just talked to him, and they’re going to put some of their money towards another computer for us” says Bryant. “It’s been a program that’s been going on for several years. We’ve just become very active in the last two or three years. And we did right at 270 children last year; hopefully we do more this year.”
He says the kit is designed to be compact and easy to carry with you.
“If you go on vacation or something like that, just stick this in your pocketbook and take it with you because it’s all the information you need and that’s when small children wander off” says Bryant. “So you’ve got all that information right with you and it’s something that’s small enough that you can take it with you. And I would get it done every year, because if you never need it, you can look back 20 years from now and laugh at it.”
In fact, Bryant says that last year, Alabama attributed the return of 4 children directly to the use of this child identification program. Funding for the program comes largely from fundraisers and private donations. They also support programs that teach kids how to stay safe in different situations. Once the kit is created, all the information stays with the parent.
“None of the information is saved on the computer” says Bryant. “Once you get your CD, it’s totally erased off of the computer; so if you get the CD you go out the door and you decide well I need to change it, or I need another one; you have to do it all over again. It’s not a filing system that we keep up with any of it. It’s strictly for the parent to have that information and that’s all it’s for.”
Currently the program is not offered by the Masonic Lodges in West Virginia. But you can find out more about the program in Virginia at their website www.vachip.org.