A World War II veteran who is a nursing home resident in Kansas got a Christmas "visit" with the daughter he hadn't seen in more than five years. The visit came courtesy of video phone technology.

Sprint and Kinko's Copies donated the time and equipment so that Wesley Gragert's daughter Nella, who lives near Provo, could spend time with him. She traveled to Salt Lake City to use the technology.Gragert, an Army veteran, has been in the VA Hospital for two years. He helps other patients on his nursing home ward by reading mail for them, writing their letters and helping push their wheelchairs.

That's just one of many efforts being made to brighten Christmas for people with special needs:

- The Utah Housing Finance Agency, Zions Bank and Travelers Aid teamed up to provide affordable housing for four Utah families just in time for Christmas. Two years ago the trio formed a partnership to provide affordable housing opportunities. Recognizing that homeless families are not necessarily jobless, the partners created the Smith Apartments to provide transitional housing to working homeless families. The units - 38 total in two locations - have monthly rents averaging only $180.

Now the partnership has advanced to include home ownership. Two families this week got their own homes due to very low interest mortgage money made available through the agency's Comprehensive Housing Assistance Mortgage Program. One of the families that qualified was living in transitional housing at the Smith Apartments, so that unit is now going to be home to a family that was staying at Marillac House.

- Toys are still needed for the Salvation Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Amoco Rainbo station Toys for Tots program. Anyone who would like to help can call Shelly at 536-6918 or 541-5918 (cellular phone).

- Judge Memorial High School students adopted 30 families this Christmas season in the Salt Lake Sub for Santa program.

The students and faculty raised money and collected gifts for the needy families.

One of the students asked her parents to buy a "large-ticket" item for a little girl in one of the low-income families, rather than buy her something special this year.

- Bingham Cyclery donated a number of scooters and bicycles to the Sandy Police Department, which found needy families that will love the gifts.

- The Salvation Army Community Dining Room expects to serve dinner for more than 600 homeless people on Christmas Day. That equals 50 hams, 100 pounds of potatoes, eight cases of vegetables and fresh fruit, 1,200 dinner rolls and 100 pumpkin pies, donated by Smith's Food and Drug Centers.

The food chain also donated $1,000 to the army's "Christmas kettles" to support ongoing services. Last year the Salvation Army provided 165,000 meals.

- Fox Communications, a long-distance and cellular communications company, presented 250 prepaid Fox Phone Debit Cards to homeless residents staying at the Travelers Aid Society shelter. Each card provides 10 minutes of free calls, which can be made from any phone.

View Comments

- Tel America let homeless people staying at the Travelers Aid Society Community Shelter and Resource Center phone home for the holidays Tuesday. The calls, which are free, are becoming a tradition for the long-distance company. This was the program's fourth year.

The company also visited children who are patients at Primary Children's Medical Center and let them make free calls to loved ones, as well.

- The Society for Marketing Professional Services for the Built Environment held a number of activities to raise money and acquire gifts for a needy family.

-The 19th Special Forces Group (airborne), Utah Army National Guard, extended an honorary membership to Jason Wessel. Wessel has been in LDS Hospital since he was in a car accident that left him partially paralyzed. The young man was active in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at West High School prior to his accident.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.