Keeping kids safe is a task the whole community should embrace, not just parents and police. U.S. Storage Depot, based in Saline-Mich., found a way to contribute by hosting a Child ID Day, during which parents could bring their children to be fingerprinted.
More than 2,100 American children are reported missing every day, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. If families can quickly furnish fingerprints, descriptive information and a current photograph to law enforcement, the chances of safe recovery are greatly increased. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports the recovery rate has increased from 66 percent in 1990 to 94 percent in 2004.
“We like to keep with a charitable theme and give back to the community when launching a new facility [with a special event],” says Bryan Feldpausch, marketing director. A Child ID Day seemed like an idea with great potential, but the overwhelming response from parents caught the company off guard—about 400 people turned out for the first program. Now U.S. Storage Depot regularly features the event as part of its marketing mix.
To reach prospective attendees, it enlists the help of schools. “Generally, we’ll put an ad in the paper, and print a bunch of fliers and take them directly to the school system,” Feldpausch explains. “Sometimes they can’t do anything for a for-profit business, so we keep the flier free of logos and explain that it’s not-for-profit.”
U.S. Storage Depot’s Child ID Days are coordinated by a local woman who specialized in organizing the same event for schools. “Originally, she didn’t think we’d be able to draw as many people, and now she works with us at all our grand openings,” Feldpausch says. It turned out attendance at schools was limited to no more than three classes, with teachers not able to send every pupil. “At our facility, we bring in kids from five different districts. We also offer it on Saturdays when kids aren’t in school, so families can more easily attend.”
The police department provides experts who fingerprint the children. A roll of each child’s prints and a tip sheet are sent home with parents, who are encouraged to staple a current photograph to the packet. According to the NCMEC, one of six missing children is recovered because someone recognized his picture. In some cases, police coordinate the entire child-ID program and include digital photos on floppy disk or offer copies of dental records. Interested self-storage owners should check with local police departments to learn what programs are available.
Sweetening the Pot
In its promotional fliers and press releases, U.S. Storage Depot touts incentives such as food, games or visits by fi re trucks. A recent event featured the Candy Sheriff, a costumed figure who passed out candy. Also on the agenda was Dan-Dan the Choo-Choo Man, the engineer of a mini train that gave rides throughout the facility. Sometimes the day even includes an RV show coordinated by a local dealer, an added treat for adults.
“We might talk to a pizza parlor and get it to donate or split the cost of 30 or 40 pizzas so we can offer free lunch,” Feldpausch says. Sometimes the local police or fire department brings a vehicle, which can keep kids occupied for hours. U.S. Storage Depot has also offered a petting zoo or other animal exhibits through groups like the Humane Society or 4-H Club.
Once the serious fingerprinting business is complete, kids are free to have fun while parents explore the facility. Each event lasts about four hours and, without fail, three or four families stay for the duration. Feldpausch believes the positive connection potential customers make between the event and its host is invaluable.
“When you bond with the community, you relate to people and give them the impression you are giving something back to them. It gives them a feeling of warmth. I can still remember when Bell Tire used to give out free hotdogs when I was a kid, and that was years and years ago … I don’t see why every other kid and his parents wouldn’t feel the same way I did.”
U.S. Storage Depot is always looking for opportunities to do community organizations a good turn. Every time, the company scores its own reward in good will. For example, last year, a minister needed a place to hold donations for his church’s annual clothing drive. The company furnished a free unit for a couple of weeks, inviting people to come by and deposit gifts. “We did a little bit of publicity, and the church itself did a pretty good job of publicizing the drive,” Feldpausch says. “A lot of people came by our site to drop off clothing. It gave them a chance to see what we have, that it’s a state-of-the-art facility. As a result of helping the church, we increased foot traffic and made people more aware of our site.”
Similarly, this fall, the company made a unit available to the Cub Scouts to store boxes of popcorn for a fund-raiser. One of the facility’s lobbies was used as a drop spot, and about 150 people came by to look around. “All that just by giving one storage space to Cub Scouts—we are branding our name by doing something charitable,” Feldpausch observes.
U.S. Storage Depot has more than 22 years experience in the self-storage industry, designing and building award-winning facilities. For more information, call 734.944.1803.