MACOMB — At Saturday’s farmers market, the Macomb Masonic Lodge hosted a tent for the CHIP, or child identification program, a free and easy service that provides parents with a convenient resource package should their child ever go missing.
To create a package, three men from the lodge would record a 45 second video, take fingerprints, and note any identifying marks. The program then gives the package back to the parents, and keeps none of this information. In case a child goes missing, the parents are able to provide investigators with a complete package detailing the child’s speech patterns, fingerprints, and other valuable identifying information.
For nearly a decade, members of the Macomb Masonic Lodge have been putting on a local branch of the nationwide child identification program known as CHIP. Tim Whitmore, member of the Macomb Masonic Lodge, said many parents mistake the acronym for a literal microchipping program, like the kind you use on household pets.
“They’re looking at changing the name soon,” Whitmore said. “We get a lot of strange looks from people.”
Using just a laptop, a fingerprinting kit, and a vinyl backdrop to measure their height, the drop-in tent program creates a disc to be used in the identification of kids young and old. The 45 second interview features simple questions that vary depending on the child’s age, but always serve to point out how the child speaks, and any facial expressions or body language that are unique to the child. For babies, Abbot said he likes to use a blank disc to catch the sunlight--just to record how the baby looks when something catches its attention.
The program’s mobile setup appears annually at the WIU agriculture and mech show in February. According to Whitmore, they’re even looking to expand their appearances to the hospital and local schools. Whitmore said that the program was under new direction in Macomb, and that it’s regular visits to schools have been less prominent than in the past.
Hosted from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Abbot said that only two children had been brought by the tent, but Whitmore said this did not discourage them.
“It’s two more children we can help save.” Whitmore said.
Abbot added that while the program has been used to successfully to locate missing children across the country, Macomb’s own CHIP program has been fortunate enough to not be necessary. Abbot likened the service to a free and easy form of insurance for parents.
“You hope you never need it, but it’s nice to have” Abbot said.

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