A St. George organization that aids women and children in polygamous communities has opened a new office and taken a new name after conflicts over methods of helping underage brides.
Hope for the Child Brides, formerly Help the Child Brides, opened a new office at 115 N. 300 West in St. George. The nonprofit group plans to offer food, clothing and other help to those leaving the polygamous life. In addition, Hope for the Child Brides will put on presentations and provide speakers and videos for local groups.
The organization’s goal is to help prevent child abuse and underage marriage, problems it alleges are common in the nearby communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most residents support the practice of plural marriage.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office also is continuing to reach out to the polygamous community. Spokesman Paul Murphy said its top priorities are educating medical- and mental-health providers about the culture and needs within the community.
The recent excommunications of a few dozen men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which considers polygamy a bedrock principle, led to heightened focus on the twin communities and fears of an exodus.
The turmoil also sparked friction among members of Help the Child Brides.
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One founding member, Robert Curran, who supports the group financially, resigned Feb. 3 after questioning the tactics of fellow board member Flora Mae Jessop in helping two Colorado City runaways get to Phoenix.
Board member Jim Ashurst also stepped down at the time. New board members, who join Jessop and Jay Beswick, include Beverly Regensberg, Elaine Tyler, Troy Bowles and Debbie Palmer.
Hope for the Child Brides, which is staffed by volunteers, is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.