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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – It took many months but South Carolina credit unions, backed by their league, are in the final stages of distributing child ID kits to schools across the state as part of a national campaign which got rolling during the 2004 Presidential election. The windup of the kit distribution was marked last week at the league’s annual meeting here with a scheduled appearance by Elizabeth Smart, the Utah teenager abducted in 2002 and returned to her family nine months later. “We wanted to be sensitive about her appearance and we were told in advance she is prepared to speak but may not take difficult questions from the audience,” said Brandon Pugh, the league’s director of communications. Elizabeth was accompanied by her father, Edward, a speaker at CU meetings on child protection and an advocate for the child ID program that got launched in this state in 2002 by Founders FCU of Lancaster in conjunction with the American Football Coaches Association. Since last fall some 47 South Carolina CUs led by the league have participated in a $1.2 million project to purchase and distribute child ID kits in public schools. So far 50% of the 675,000 kits have now been donated to schools with plans to distribute the remaining kits to youngsters by the end of the school year in June. While the kits have been welcomed in most areas, a handful of schools rejected the kits as unneeded, preferring other child protection offerings in the market. In some cases, CU executives had to deal with a bureaucracy to win approval of local school boards and districts to OK distribution. But in many areas South Carolina CUs have distributed the kits accompanied by favorable media coverage. To that end, CUs in Greenville County slated a press conference April 24 to announce the distribution in Columbia area schools. In a news release, SC Telco FCU, of Greenville, said parents of 65,000 students in its market would be receiving the free kits during the remainder of April and in May. “When the statistics show more than 800,000 children are missing each year – one every 40 seconds – it is time a concerted program is applied to the problem” declared S.C. CU League President/CEO Garry Parks. -

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