Edward Williamson, 1st district director for the Mason Lodge of Pembroke, said the lodge’s first run of the GACHIP, or the Georgia Child Identification Program, went well on Saturday.
The program started at 8 a.m. and by 9:30 a.m., Williamson said they had already processed information for more than 25 children in Bryan County. He said up to at least 100 children can be done in a day.
"We have partners who help us fund the program. It is free for all children," he said. "It’s been really busy so far today – even more than I anticipated. It’s also been really nice to have the Sheriff’s Office and the D.A.R.E. department here helping out."
GACHIP is a small computer disk that provides a child’s photographs from various angles that can be provided to police and the media in case of an abduction or with the Amber Alert Program; a complete set of digital fingerprints to help with an investigation and/or identification; information about a child, including distinguishing features such as hair and eye color, scars, etc.; and a laminated ID card with the child’s information and photograph.
Additionally, the program takes a tooth print dental impression wafer.
"Even with a child losing and gaining teeth, a dental impression gives accurate and important information for identification purposes," said the GACHIP brochure. "From the use of the dental impression wafer, a DNA sample is obtained…the saliva from the dental impression wafer provides a pure, exclusive scent, which can be used by tracking dogs in helping to find lost children."
Once information has been collected, the parents or guardians receive the computer disk and the information is then erased from the CHIP system, because the program is an advocate of privacy.
Ryan Butler, a member of the lodge, brought out his boys, Riley and Kolby.
"I thought this would be a really good thing to get, this is a great program," he said.
Kim Taylor and Karen Hicks, volunteer staff members, said they were having a great time helping.
"We’ve done the voice analysis, fingerprints and a teeth impression that gives a DNA and scent sample," Taylor said.
Three-year-old Noah Harper had just finished a teeth impression with volunteer Justin Cowart.
"I liked it," he said once he completed the CHIP.
Williamson stressed the program is not limited to just North Bryan children, but for all children throughout Bryan County.
Williamson said 11 states in the nation have committed to providing the GACHIP, and he said they’ve gotten a really good response for it so far.
Williamson’s goal is to have every single Bryan County child put through the CHIP. He encourages all those who missed the event to come out this upcoming Saturday.
The event will be held again, Saturday, March 1, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Mason Lodge headquarters, located at 45 McFadden Drive in Pembroke, right behind the post office.