Volunteers plan fingerprinting event

PARKERSBURG – Several years ago, the efforts of a volunteer committee to collect identification data in case children were ever reported missing resulted in the fingerprinting of about 400 kids.

When the effort is renewed in May, they’re hoping to more than double those numbers.

“I’m shooting for 800 to 1,000,” said Effie Ayers, a member of the volunteer Kid’s Print ID committee.

The 2014 edition will be held May 3 at Parkersburg City Park on the same day as Artsbridge’s annual Kid’s Fest. The Wood County Sheriff’s Department will provide free fingerprinting, after which parents will receive a Kid’s Print ID card with the child’s picture, height, weight and thumb print.

The ID can provide quick information to law enforcement officers should the child ever be reported missing. Fingerprints of Wood County children will also be entered into the sheriff’s department database

“We just feel that it’s a very important thing for law enforcement to have this information, as well as the parents,” said Andrea Block, a committee member. “In the unlikely event that a child goes missing, it makes it easier for law enforcement to get the information so that they can begin their work more quickly.”

To entertain children as they wait, there will be characters like Smokey Bear, Wendy and Frosty from Wendy’s and more on hand, as well as a musical performance by Bob Martin, singing in the style of Willie Nelson, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and others, from 1-3 p.m. Refreshments will be served after children get fingerprinted.

“I’m already having fun just hearing about it,” Ayers said.

One reason Ayers expects a bigger turnout this year is that the committee has enlisted the aid of more organizations.

Ayers and representatives of the sheriff’s department, West Virginia Army National Guard, local churches and other volunteers gathered Wednesday at the Wood County Schools administrative offices in Parkersburg to discuss the plans.

Officers from the sheriff’s department, West Virginia State Police and the Parkersburg, Vienna and Williamstown police departments will be on hand, and Ayers emphasized the importance of them being in uniform.

“The reason for the uniform is, too much television shows brutality between criminals and police, and we want children to know this uniform as someone they can go to at any time,” she said.

Local churches will distribute information about the event, including through bulletin inserts the Sunday before. Wood County, Parkersburg Catholic and Wirt County Schools have agreed to send letters home with students to promote the event as well.

Bob Tranquill, chief tax deputy for the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, said the event is a big help to the department. It often receives requests for fingerprinting events at local businesses. This will give them a chance to record information for a number of children all at once, he said.