COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina credit unions may have been the guiding light in pushing those FBI-endorsed child ID kits, but at last the fingerprint kits will be in the hands of thousands of K-12 youngsters at schools across the state beginning this month. While scores of CUs in other states for more than a year have distributed thousands of the kits – many on a piecemeal basis through local schools, SEGs, or law enforcement agencies – South Carolina CUs have held back distribution. The reason: to ensure the widest coverage in school districts and to encourage statewide CU participation. Indeed, 670,000 of the kits – the most warehoused anywhere in the U.S. – are currently in storage sites in six South Carolina cities as staffers from the South Carolina Credit Union League and participating CUs contact the 86 school districts to distribute them. “We had a rental firm offer us a truck which will be used to help pass out the kits next week,” said a spokesman for the League. The idea to purchase and distribute the free kits is more than a year old and in South Carolina its biggest backer has been Founders FCU of Lancaster, whose philanthropic president/CEO, Bruce Brumfield, provided generous incentives to employees to sell Christmas ornaments in 2004. Proceeds of the ornament sale went toward purchasing 100,000 of the kits for distribution in six South Carolina counties comprising the Founders market. The numbers have since climbed above 300,000. Brumfield, however, maintained youngsters throughout the whole state-not just in the Founders market-should benefit from a CU project which could be seen as a strong gesture of public goodwill. Last April at the League’s annual meeting, Brumfield challenged other CUs to purchase kits and the 85 member CUs agreed. On a national basis, the actual production and distribution of the kits among CUs has been underway since September 2004 led by the National Child Identification Program headquartered in Dallas and run by the American Football Coaches Association. The CUNA-endorsed kits were debuted in 2004 during the Democratic and Republican conventions with the child protection idea gaining further momentum tied to the disappearance and abduction of Elizabeth Smart, the Salt Lake teenager. Indeed, Ed Smart, Elizabeth’s father, for months has been on NCIP’s national speaking circuit and only three weeks ago spoke in Greenville at a SC Telco FCU meeting with law enforcement personnel to talk with parents about the NCIP program. Smart, who has lobbied hard in Congress for passage of the “Amber Alert,” for the protection and rescue of children, has also figured in CU appearances in Utah where NCIP estimates 10,000 of the kits have been distributed. Utah CUs like Deseret First, America First and Mountain America have joined in distribution this year “and they told us they wanted to do more” but their resources are limited because of banker attacks,” explained Ken Hansmire, NCIP’s executive director. In lauding Founders and South Carolina “for showing the way” on child ID, Hansmire said other state Leagues have also done well over the last year pointing to Idaho where 60,000 kits have been distributed. New York, Alabama, Texas and others have also been active, he noted. NCIP has estimated 1.4 million of the kits have now been distributed although it was uncertain how many of that includes CU distribution. “We at the NCIP think the kits represent a way for credit unions to stand up to those banker bullies on the block and to show the public that we care about our members,” Hansmire concluded. -

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