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Nonprofit holds fundraiser to help people leaving polygamous groups

Published January 28, 2012 10:00 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Joseph Broadbent was 17 when he decided to leave his home in Hildale after years of beatings at home.

"I was so sick of my dad, I just couldn't take it anymore," he said. He worked welding jobs, but when the work dried up, he found he needed something else — a high school diploma. Broadbent, now 23, had gone to the group's private priesthood schools until about age 14, when he said he left to work for his father.

For help with GED classes and paying for gas, he turned to Holding out Help, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit for people leaving polygamous groups. The nonprofit provides mentoring, housing and some financial support to people leaving polygamous groups.

The group held a fundraiser Friday at the Park City home of volunteer Don Mealing. The organization has seen its numbers grow significantly in the past year as dozens of people have been excommunicated from the state's largest polygamous sect, Warren Jeffs-led Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Holding out Help now works with about 200 people, and expects that to grow to 250 this year, said executive director Tonia Tewell.

Several well-known names in the recent story of polygamy in Utah spoke at the event, including author Jon Krakauer, private investigator Sam Brower, author and ex-FLDS member Carolyn Jessop, and several young former members of the FLDS.

What sets apart Holding out Help is its willingness to work with families who are loyal to Jeffs, said Elissa Wall, who was married at age 14 to her 19-year-old cousin. Her case led to accomplice-to-rape charges against Jeffs.

"They are creating a relationship within this community, which has never been done before," she said, which means more people feel comfortable seeking help.

Jessop described her own "giant learning curve" of trying to acclimate into mainstream society.

Some people recently out of the group "do not have the basic skills I try to instill in my children, just making small choices [like] at the grocery store: do you want this or do you want that?"

The fundraiser drew about 130 people.