The nonprofit provides mentoring, housing and some financial support.
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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.
There were roughly 100 people in attendance, including former FLDS member Elissa Wall. She fled the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints six years ago. […]
She stood up to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, which ultimately contributed to his arrest and imprisonment. Before that, she says she was a lot like 18-year-old Natalie Knudson.
“My dad has two wives and 19 kids,” Knudson said.
Her polygamist father agreed to letting her leave Colorado City, but not before he forced her to get married at age 17. She is now divorced and starting over.
Knudson is enrolled in college, working on her nursing degree, and she’s finding support in the nonprofit group Holding Out Help.
“It’s a lot different. There’s a lot more freedom — and my dad was really strict so I couldn’t do anything without being watched by him or one of the moms,” she said.
“There’s a lot of pitfalls that can be bypassed by having that support system, by having people that have already come out and made the way for them,” Wall said. “(It) makes it a lot easier for them to have continual progress, instead of falling backwards.”
Holding Out Help will hold a silent auction and dinner on Saturday, March 3, 2011. For more details, visit www.holdingouthelp.org
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