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Sunday, April 13

Trinket-maker shows patriotism with donations

By Irwin M. Goldberg | The Tucson Citizen

Lapel Pins & More is one of many senders of good will to the West Virginia hometown of rescued POW Jessica Lynch.

The Tucson, Ariz., company, which designs and makes lapel pins, key chains, paperweights and patches, sent 100 U.S. flag-yellow ribbon pins and assorted other pins to Elizabeth Town Hall in Wirt County, W.Va., for distribution to Lynch's family and town residents.

The pins are made in China and Taiwan

``When they discovered Lynch and made the heroic rescue, and she was the only live POW rescued from the hospital, and she was from a little town, I thought, `God bless her. God bless that family. For some reason, that girl is alive,' '' said Sid Leluan, the company's founder.

Leluan said he immediately asked one of his employees to track down the mayor of the town and send the pins, with the request that some be given to the family.

``I'd do it again in a heartbeat for everything those people are doing, their heroics,'' he said. ``Whether you're for or against the war, you've got to hope our troops come home.''

This isn't the first time Leluan has shown his patriotism.

Hours after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he had a pin design posted to his company's Web site, www.pinworld.com, featuring the World Trade Center towers wrapped in a black ribbon with the American flag flying in the middle.

``It was my intent to raise $15,000 to $25,000 for the American Red Cross, and I thought it would take me three to four months.''

The response overwhelmed the tiny company.

By 6:30 a.m. Sept. 12, the voice mail was full, and e-mails for orders were piling up.

``I had to add 50 percent more phone lines and double my staff. I had two people and they quit because of (the demands), but they came back because they're relatives,'' he said.

By the fourth day, gross sales exceeded Leluan's $25,000 goal.

Since then, the company has donated more than $160,000 to the Liberty Disaster Relief Fund.

``Sid was one of the first businesspeople to come forward following the September 11 events,'' said Richard White, executive director of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the American Red Cross. ``It was a substantial gift to the Red Cross, and we were thrilled to receive it and develop a nice partnership with a firm that we were not previously involved with.''

Leluan started his lapel pin company for about $5,000 in 1985 to provide a ``decent quality at a competitive price'' for Little League Baseball pins in Tucson.

Now the company contracts with a factory in Taiwan and two in China to produce about 1.5 million pins per year, with gross revenue of about $700,000, Leluan said.

About 1 percent of the business is local, 90 percent domestic and 9 percent international, he said.

The company maintains stock pins of various patriotic themes, which represents about 8 percent of its sales.

The company also sells a memorial pin for the Pentagon; Sirius, the Port Authority K-9 killed in the attacks ($10,000 to a separate fund); and for the 767 aircraft (one of the two types of aircraft involved in the attacks).

Another commemorative pin was done for the space shuttle Columbia tragedy this year. Leluan pledged $10,000 from the sale of this pin to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center to provide scholarships to the annual space camp so the legacy of the space shuttle ``doesn't die in the eyes of today's children.''