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Operation Kidsafe to open first year-round center for Iowa


Operation Kidsafe International, an Illinois-based national nonprofit that provides free children’s identification for parents to use in the event that their child becomes missing, is opening a year-round center in Ankeny. The Year-Round Child Safety Center, the first in Iowa, opens Friday at the Testino Agency Inc., 110 N. Ankeny Blvd. As a partner with Operation Kidsafe, the agency will serve as a resource to provide free children’s ID on both a walk-in basis as well as for community events. 

“It’s a very quick and easy process once a parent brings their children in,” said Nick Testino, an Allstate agent who volunteered to host the center at his agency for the next 12 months. Testino and his staff will also be available to provide the free ID service at community events throughout Greater Des Moines. One of its first events will be attending all three days of Ankeny Summerfest in July, he said. 

Operation Kidsafe founder Mark Bott, who was instrumental in advocating for the national Amber Alert system legislation, estimates that his nonprofit has helped parents of more than 1 million children to create a form with the child’s digital fingerprints and photo that parents can provide to law enforcement officials in the event of an emergency. 

After years of coordinating weekend events, Operation Kidsafe last year began partnering with local businesses across the United States to sponsor and open the year-round centers, Bott said in a telephone interview. “We used to do weekend events, and I got so frustrated that parents would call on Monday and say, ‘I couldn’t be there.’ ” said Bott, who lives in Springfield, Ill..  

Operation Kidsafe has opened about 50 of the year-round centers in the United States and Canada, Bott said. He emphasized that Operation Kidsafe does not keep any of the information that is processed to make the identification document, which the parents receive at no charge. 

Testino, who opened his insurance office in Ankeny last fall with his twin brother, Andrew Testino, said he was looking for a way to engage with the community and provide a free public service. He learned about Operation Kidsafe from an Allstate newsletter; several Allstate agencies in other states have signed on as centers. 

The service is also valuable for families with special-needs adults, said Nick Testino. His younger brother, Alex, who is a special-needs adult, was among the first to have his ID made at the new center. 

Testino emphasized the service is completely free and confidential, with no strings attached. “This is not about selling insurance,” he said. “It’s about child safety and making sure children are protected.”

A ribbon-cutting will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at the agency. The Operation Kidsafe center will then be available during the agency’s regular office hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, unless the office is hosting an event. For more information, contact Nick Testino at 515-310-1200. 

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