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Orem-based charter school launches county-wide anti-isolation campaign

Lumen Scholar Institute’s students can’t reach out to their 8-year-old selves. So they’re doing the next best thing.

“Everyone I know has had a problem with isolation,” said Emma Richardson, a junior at Lumen Scholar Institute.

The Orem-based public charter school wanted to find a way to help lower suicide rates in the community for its annual service project. The students thought about what they’d tell their younger selves, and realized they could, in a way, by addressing students at local elementary schools.

The result has been Reach Out, a project in which students will make thousands of bracelets with the motto, will speak in local elementary schools, will write letters to other students and will host a leadership conference to help further spread the message.

“They all said they wanted to help kids feeling bad about themselves,” said Allison Richardson, the auxiliary coordinator for Lumen Scholar Institute and Emma Richardson’s mother.

The initial goal was to make 1,000 hope bracelets. But then additional schools showed interest in the project, and it grew. The Lumen Scholar Institute students have made 1,300 bracelets, with the capacity to create 10,000.

The bracelets are made from paracord wrapped around a 3D-printed washer that reads “reach out.” The goal is that the program will be preventative and will help elementary students learn to make connections in order to avoid isolation.

There are eight elementary schools signed up so far. Allison Richardson said that isolation starts in elementary school, and current mental health initiatives aren’t working fast enough.

The high school students talk about getting upset when things don’t turn out their way, being concerned with how many friends they have or feeling isolated even in a crowd. It’s a message the school hopes resonates with the younger generation.

“They can make a difference in their own lives,” Allison Richardson said.

Dozens of students tied the bracelets Thursday at the school, cheering as they passed 100 bracelets in one sitting and singing out the chorus of “Sweet Caroline.”

A leadership conference in January will bring together local student leaders to train on the project. Business Promotions in American Fork has also offered to help the school film a video and launch a website, which will eventually be available at http://reachoututah.org.

The Lumen Scholar Institute students are passionate about the project after experiencing isolation and its effects in their own lives.

Gideon Warnock, a junior, said he’s gone through hard times where he’s felt disconnected from others. What helped, he said, was people reaching out to him and making connections with his community.

“I feel like isolation, the reason why it’s such a huge problem is people lose hope,” Warnock said.

U.S. House passes Rep. Ben McAdams’ bill that would help Ponzi scheme victims recover funds

U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, held a press conference Monday morning to discuss a bill he introduced that, if signed into law, would help victims of investment fraud and Ponzi schemes recover lost money.

House Resolution 4344, the Investor Protection and Capital Markets Fairness Act, would increase the statute of limitations for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to recover gains lost in financial schemes to 14 years. The current statute of limitations, as of 2017, is five years.

The bill passed through the House of Representatives on Nov. 18 with a 314-95 vote and had bipartisan support, McAdams said. It is currently in the Senate and has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. If it passes through the Senate, it will go to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

There was no statute of limitations for recovering illegally gotten gains prior to a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case involving Charles Kokesh, who securities regulators charged with misappropriating nearly $35 million in funds from four business development companies between 1995 and 2006, Business Insurance reported. The Supreme Court ruled that a five-year statute of limitations applied to the case and ordered Kokesh to disgorge $5 million to the SEC.

As a result of the ruling, the SEC has been “hampered in returning victims’ money,” McAdams said.

“These investment frauds are complicated and take time to unravel,” McAdams said on Monday. “They (the SEC) need the tools to ensure that … innocent victims of (financial schemes) have some chance to get back at least some of their hard-earned money.”

In May 2018, less than a year after the Kokesh ruling, the SEC estimated that it hadn’t been able to recover more than $800 million in ill-gotten gains that otherwise would have been distributed to wronged investors, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Mark Pugsley, a securities regulation attorney for the Salt Lake City-based Ray Quinney and Nebeker who joined McAdams at the press conference, said the bill would lead to “significantly greater recoveries for victims of fraud here in Utah and throughout the United States.”

“Through the course of my career, I’ve seen how difficult it is for people to recover their losses,” Pugsley said, who has represented investment fraud victims for 25 years.

Pugsley’s research shows that Utah leads the country in its rate of Ponzi schemes, a form of investment fraud where new investors generate profits for old investors, as opposed to investors being paid from product sales or other legitimate forms of revenue.

Between 2008 and 2018, there were 42 publicly reported Ponzi schemes in Utah, a rate of 1.35 schemes per 100,000 people. The next highest rates were in Florida and New York, which had rates of 0.51 and 0.45 schemes per person, respectively.

These 42 schemes in Utah led to more than $1.5 billion in losses, or $502.39 per capita.

“We have a big problem here,” Pugley said.

McAdams, who worked as a securities attorney prior to being elected to the Utah Senate in 2009, said the state’s “close-knit community” character makes residents especially vulnerable to fraud.

“(Fraudsters) are preying upon what I love about Utah,” the 4th District representative said. “We are quick to trust, we’re quick to see the best in others and to extend a hand of friendship … our greatest strength, they turned into our greatest weakness.”

McAdams added that he thinks it is important to not “victim-shame” those who have been wronged by financial schemes.

The bill, which McAdams introduced alongside Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Michigan, was originally drafted to not put any limitation on how far back fraud victims could recover losses, McAdams said. The 14-year statute of limitations was added as a compromise with legislators who felt there should be some limit.

McAdams said the law would not be retroactive and therefore would only apply to financial fraud cases moving forward.

Latter-day Saint Charities' Giving Machines at University Place start taking donations

The Macy’s Department Store may be gone from University Place, but its mall entrance is likely to have lots of visitors this holiday season thanks to the Giving Machines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Latter-day Saint Charities.

The Giving Machines, located in only 10 places worldwide, have found a home at the Orem mall and begin taking donations Tuesday.

Elder Craig C. Christensen, Area General Authority Seventy, said at a special press conference and unveiling of the machines Monday that he expects the Orem location to be one of the most giving.

“We’ve always been philanthropic in Orem,” Christensen said. “People here are very generous and this gives us an opportunity to help local charities.”

One of those charities is the Community Action Services and Food Bank.

“This will help provide meals for friends and neighbors,” said Karen McCandless, executive director of Community Action.

Not only will local charities receive help, but donations can be made to people and charities all over the world. That is happening because of a partnership with the Church World Services and its 37 denomination members.

Rev. Rebekah Belase of CWS said while the organization has partnered with the LDS Church on other projects this is the first time partnering with the Giving Machines.

“It’s amazing to have the local and global partnership,” Belase said.

Larry Conover, CWS senior development officer, said just $15 will help train a mother with a malnutritioned baby and will feed the baby until it starts thriving.

The Giving Machines started three years ago, according to Christensen, with the first year being a beta test. Last year they had five machines and this year 10.

“This year we will be adding new locations for our Giving Machines,” said Elder Brent H. Nielson, General Authority Seventy in a press release. “This unique way to give not only blesses the life of the giver, but also lifts the receiver in locations all around the world. Our hope is to offer opportunities to Light the World one by one.”

Several local groups will benefit from the Orem Giving Machine, along with the Community Action Services and Food Bank. Donations in the Orem machine will include items benefiting the Center for Women and Children in Crisis, United Way of Utah County and the Family Support and Treatment Center.

Bill Hulterstrom, president of the United Way of Utah County said, “We are absolutely thrilled being a part of the Giving Machines program.”

The items in the machines range in price from $2 to $310 and include food, clothing, medicine, hygiene supplies, sporting equipment and livestock. Christensen demonstrated the machines by buying a pig for $100. The global charity will get the donation and deliver the pig to a family in need.

“We’re flattered that University Place was selected for this wonderful giving opportunity,” said Arthur Woodbury, Vice President of Woodbury Corporation. “We hope it will be a tradition for years to come.”

The Giving Machines raised more than $2.3 million in 2018 for global charities.

“These Giving Machines are an example of the big things that can happen when many people give just a little,” added Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president in a press release. “That is what it means to Light the World one by one – when we each give what we can offer, our little light adds to a brightness of hope.”

Other Giving Machine locations are at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City; Las Vegas, Nevada; Gilbert, Arizona; Laie, Hawaii; Denver, Colorado; San Jose, California; New York, New York; London, England and Manila, Philippines.