The Masonic Foundation for Children held its first Sharing the Light Holiday Gala on Saturday, December 4, 2004 at the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia with 250 guests attending.
More than $110,000 was raised for the 2005 Child Identification (CHIP) Program. CHIP screens children through CD interviews, fingerprints and DNA for identification in case they turn up missing.
In 2004, over 130,000 Pennsylvania children were processed in the CHIP program, costing about $1.70 per child.
The Grand Lodge has committed to both funding and staffing the Child Identification Program in 2005. However, the program is in need of additional volunteers and businesses to sponsor the project in the hope of adding 50,000 more children for a goal of 150,000 children going through the program statewide this year.
At a recent news conference at the Sewickley Masonic Village, the Grand Master talked of the need for the Masonic Community, in partnership with the Crime Prevention Association of Pennsylvania, to continue the program that they took on in January of 2004. He also reached out to seek more volunteers to go into schools and more businesses and individual donors to fund the program.
"CHIP addresses the alarming fact that over 1,000,000 children are reported missing in the United States each year. We want to make sure that every parent has the tools they will need in the event their child is abducted. If we are to increase the identification process to a goal of 150,000 children, we are going to need help." Also, at the news conference, the Grand Master put his two young children through the program as a demonstration.
CHIP is provided free of charge to the public and all of the identifying items generated during CHIP are given to the child's family.
The program includes the following:
CD with Audio: Using a digital picture with audio - children are asked a series of questions to provide information in front of a height chart backdrop. The CHIP interview captures the appearance, speech, mannerisms, and other important personal characteristics of a child. The picture and audio are recorded on to a 3" CD and given to the parent or guardian. It is the cornerstone of the CHIP program.
Fingerprints: Children are fingerprinted and a hard copy given to the parents.
DNA: A DNA kit is provided to the parent or guardian to be completed at home as soon as possible. (fingernail clippings, hair follicles and oral swab)
Funding for this program comes from generous contributions to the Pennsylvania Masonic Foundation for Children and are tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
Donna Weglewski, Executive Director of the Crime Prevention Association of Pennsylvania, based in Gibsonia, PA, works in partnership with the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and oversees the program in western Pennsylvania.
"I hope the work that this program is doing will never be needed. But, I realize that should the need arise, the information generated from the CHIP program will prove to be a tremendous asset to law enforcement."
On December 4th the Grand Lodge opened the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia to the public for a Sharing the Light Holiday Gala to help fund the CHIP Program in 2005. Over $110,000 was raised for the program, but that is about a third of the necessary operating budget for 2005.
Individuals or Lodges interested in making a donation or underwriting the CHIP program should contact the CHIP Project Director at 800-537-6525 or visit the Pennsylvania Masonic Foundation for Children website, or e-mail CHIP Coordinator Ray Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. All donations are tax-deductible.
The Gala was chaired by Robert Ciampitti, Sr., DDGM of District A. The 2005 Holiday Gala is scheduled on Saturday, December 10. For information call 610-660-8550.
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