“Masons Work to Protect Children”
WALTON COUNTY – Nothing can strike fear into the heart of a parent faster than the thought of a missing child.
While Walton County’s Masonic lodges cannot do much to prevent a child from going missing, they can provide parents with valuable tools if such a tragedy might happen.
As part of the Georgia Child Identification Program, or GACHIP, sponsored by the Grand Lodge of Georgia, Freemasons across Walton County are working to help parents avert their worst nightmare.
“There are thousands of children every year who are abducted,” said Julian Hayes, with Generous Warren Masonic Lodge No. 20, and associate to the Mason district director. “Sometimes a child just wanders off and gets lost. We just want to protect our children.”
The GACHIP initiative will allow Walton’s Masons – lodges in Campton, Monroe, Loganville, Social Circle and around the edges of the county – in partnership with the Loganville Ladies Auxiliary with the American Legion Post 233, to take a child’s fingerprints, photograph, tooth impressions and DNA from saliva to create a small, comprehensive package, complete with informational CD, that parents can provide to law enforcement in the case of a missing child.
“The parent is given a package with all these materials in it,” Hayes said. “It’s everything they would want in such a situation.”
Using small kits, including a built-in computer provided by the state program, Hayes and other Walton Masons will appear at Walton EMC’s annual member meeting on June 21 at Criswell Park, where, thanks to sponsorship from the power company, they will provide the identification service to any EMC member free of charge.
“We try to find partners to defer expenses,” Hayes said. “We’re hoping to find partners for other events as well.”
Although this first GACHIP event will only be available to EMC members, Hayes said the local lodges are already looking to provide the service to a wider audience.
“We hope to get a partner for the Relay for Life,” Hayes said.
Hayes said the service provided by GACHIP was one that could only benefit parents and children.
“We don’t save any of that information,” Hayes said. “As soon as the drawer opens and the CD comes out, the information is erased off of the computer.
“It’s been going on in other states with great success.
“Where they have done this, they have recovered many children.”
The Freemasons said while the program was one created by the Grand Lodge, it was open to anyone who wished to help save children.
“This is not just for Masons,” Hayes said. “Anyone out there can come out and join our team.”
Hayes is shooting high, with hopes to provide parents across the county with the opportunity to use GACHIP.
“We’d love to get into the schools,” Hayes said. “If we can get the money, we’d identify all the children.”
Most importantly, Hayes said, was that it was not about promoting the Masons or making money but simply helping children.
“I just want to make sure our children are safe,” Hayes said.
By Stephen Milligan
Published June 1, 2008
Source: The Walton Tribune