May 24, 2009
Judging by the line today outside the old stone Masonic Lodge in Park Ridge, one might think something very valuable was being given away.
[efoods]And it was: Dozens of families lined up along Kinderkamack Avenue to take advantage of the Fulton-Friendship Lodge’s Child Identification Program which, through collecting data about youngsters in case they go missing, helps parents retain some precious things they already have.
“Basically, what we do is take a child and get their fingerprints, picture, a video and a dental imprint in case of a [kidnapping],” said Raul Ramos, a program representative from the New Jersey Grand Lodge Committee. “Then the parents take this home and have all of the information so if, God forbid, something happens, they can take that to the police to help find the child.”
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., parents swarmed the building on the first day of the free Mason-sponsored program, getting their children’s information recorded and then moving on to enjoy food, music and games in the parking lot.
“I wanted to get a microchip [implanted in their skin], but they wouldn’t do it,” joked Yale Glazer, of Montvale, as he shared popcorn with his daughter Ryan, 6, and son Justin, 4, and watched an acoustic band. “But this is great too. Every little bit helps, if it comes to that.”
Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year, according to the U.S. Justice Department. To combat this, the program, also called CHIPs, has given more than 5,000 ID kits valued at $30 apiece to parents in New Jersey.
The most helpful thing about the information in the kits, which include DNA samples, is that it’s universal, said Rick Farraj, the lodge’s program coordinator.
“This is something you can use right in your own neighborhood, but you can also take it on vacation,” he said. “The same information will help authorities in Jamaica. Even INTERPOL can use it.”
And it’s not just for children, Farraj and Ramos said. Elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can also benefit from the program, which will return to the lodge from noon to 5 p.m. Monday after the triborough Memorial Day parade.
“It’s great protection,” Julie Wolfe, of Park Ridge, said as she fed her 8-month-old daughter Sydney from a bottle and kept an eye on 4-year-old Ryan. “Especially for me; I’m one of those overprotective parents.”
Once going through the program, she joked, the only thing left to worry about is losing the information.
“Now, we just need to keep this in a safe place,” she said.