ADISTURBING "Unsolved Mysteries" program on television in March spawned an idea that has grown into the Center for Reuniting Families.
Dominic Telesco of Buffalo was moved by the story of a brother who spent almost 40 years searching for his siblings after they were separated as children.
"I felt bad that it took so long for people to find each other," Telesco said.
Telesco started to inquire if there were any places for people separated at birth or put in foster homes as children, to leave information that would help relatives searching for them.
"To my knowledge, there is no such center in the U.S. today," Telesco said from his Rath Building office. Telesco is Erie County's assistant deputy commissioner of finance. "I say 'to my knowledge' because I have investigated."
His search included welfare agencies, the United Way, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. When he came up empty-handed, he decided to form a center.
This is how it works: A person separated from a family or looking for someone who has been separated can send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the center. Telesco will send back a form with questions about physical traits of the inquirer and the person(s) being sought, residences, names and ages of family members and dates of separation.
This information is filed, and if a corresponding form is received, a reunion can be arranged.
"I hope it's gonna catch on," Telesco said. "To get the word out, it's going to take some time. But hopefully we can do something for society."
He wrote to public welfare agencies, including the United Way of America, the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities Adoptive Services, the American Association of Retired Persons and adoption agencies around the country to inform them of the center and its service.
Agencies in Michigan, Vermont and Virginia replied and underscored the need for such a center. And, in the two months since the project started, Telesco received about 20 inquiries from interested people.
Telesco was on "The Larry King Show" recently and received about a dozen inquiries shortly afterward.
And he was approached by executives of "Unsolved Mysteries" to have his story told, but refused, saying there is no happy ending of persons still looking for loved ones.
The center, a not-for-profit organization, charges a $5 fee for processing.
"It's an interesting concept," said Lucy Mysiak, director of emergency services for the Buffalo chapter of the American Red Cross. "I think it would work if it got a lot of publicity."
Ms. Mysiak said the Red Cross assists in searches for missing and separated people.
Doug Frank, executive director of Central Referral Service Inc., says his agency is considering adding the Center for Reuniting Families to its computer list of Erie County human service and non-profit organizations. A decision will be made in about a month.
The Center For Reuniting Families is at 1479 Kensington Ave., No. 202, Buffalo, N.Y. 14215.