Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On National Night Out Every CHIP Counts!

Last night I spent the evening surrounded by children and, while tiring, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As many of you know, last night was National Night Out and as part of this campaign I assisted my fellow Masons by helping local families protect their children and guiding them through the free child ID program that we offer to the public. The program, held at Suburban Square in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, was a rousing success as we surpassed our modest goal and completed well over sixty kits during the three hour event while providing information to dozens of additional families.

The calm before the storm.

For those of you unfamiliar with this program, let me offer you a quick overview. The Child Identification Program (CHIP) addresses the alarming fact that over 1,000,000 children are reported missing in the United States each year. While most are found, many are not, and the abduction of children is both under-reported and rapidly increasing in our society. CHIP provides parents and guardians the means to quickly get vital information to emergency responders. The Masonic CHIP Program is the most comprehensive service of its kind anywhere.

It is this comprehensive approach that brought families to our booth and it was the comfort of knowing that none of the information is stored or kept in any way, shape, or form. All of the child’s information is recorded directly onto a CD which the parent takes with them and along with an actual ID card with their basic information and fingerprints. The following picture is what the kit looks like (the other items in the picture are for DNA samples that the parents do at home):

It was amazing to see the reactions on the parent’s faces as we walked them through the process. There was even a sense of comfort and relief that could be felt in some of the conversations. And by keeping the kids engaged while promoting a fun and friendly atmosphere the line grew longer and longer. At many points during the evening, we were one of the most popular attractions at the carnival/fair with a line equal to many of the attractions scattered throughout the grounds.   

What was also a wonderful sight was the participation of the local Rainbow Girls Chapter. These young girls, not much older than the children being brought to our booth, were able to connect in a way that none of the adults could. I was very happy to see these future leaders starting so early in their endeavors to serve the community.

Overall, this program epitomizes the reasons why we become masons: fraternity, family, and community. Sometimes we get caught up in the fraternal and educational aspects of Freemasonry and programs bring us back to the roots of service that are so important to the role that we play in the community as a whole. Brothers across this commonwealth and around the world do what they can to help those around them and make sure that they have a positive impact on the community. This is one aspect of how becoming a mason makes a good man better.  

It was a long and tiring night permeated by the scents of popcorn and soft pretzels but one that flew by much faster than I expected. It was a hectic and crowded evening full of loud music, noisy ride, and bright lights but everything managed to run smoothly. It was a great night for all and I am glad that I took the time to spend the cool summer evening with some of my brothers while serving the community.

I came home last night smelling like a carnival but I still look forward to doing it all over again in the fall.  
After the crowd was gone all that was left to illuminate the sign was the yellow glow from the amusement rides.