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‘How did you find me?’

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Missing Persons’ search leaves no stone unturned.
BY VENECIA ARZOLA

Missing Persons Service (MPS) is known for reuniting relatives, but very few know how we do it. When I tell people what I do for a living I get puzzled looks and comments like, “I can simply Google, Facebook or MySpace it.” It’s true the Internet has made searching more effortless.

When clients have done all they can, they come to us. We subscribe to databases used by private investigators and not available to the general public. These sites collect information through employers and bill payments. We also work with Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, Veterans Affairs, law enforcement and social service organizations. These agencies refer many of our clients to us. MPS has the resources and government contacts to locate people. Finding a paper trail on someone has always been the most exciting part of the job.

Difficult cases are more complex. Even though we explore Facebook, most cases rarely have a Facebook page. We also Google them, check prisons, jails and court records. We go through the Social Security Death Index, create flyers—with a photo and physical description—for posting on the USW bulletin board and the Missing Persons Facebook page. They are also sent to non-Salvation Army shelters and missions, as well as county coroners, previous employers and other organizations. We even send them to hospitals and board and care facilities, in case our missing person is a John Doe. We search until we feel we have exhausted all our resources.

Sometimes we see miracles; someone will know an individual and provide a clue. But the tough part comes when a found person does not wish to be found.

One person told me he cried when he found out his family was searching for him. Another—also in tears—said she had been continuously seeking a brother for almost 20 years. We feel great satisfaction in knowing we’ve made a difference in their life. These are the reunions that always push us to take that extra step and not give up so easily.

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