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Huntsman renews Christmas tradition in Utah

Huntsman renews Christmas tradition in Utah



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Neither recent shoulder surgery nor his new job as U.S. ambassador to China could prevent former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman from renewing a Christmas tradition.

Huntsman, his wife Mary Kaye and their children served dinner to more than 500 homeless Utahns at the Salvation Army in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday night.

The Huntsmans voted to continue the decade-long tradition this year, even though the Republican governor left in August to become ambassador.

"Merry Christmas to you, my friend," Huntsman said as he greeted diners, patting them with his left hand since his right arm was in a sling.

When a visitor asked about his new position, Huntsman described living and working in China as "exhilarating."

Homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson called the Huntsmans part of her "wonderful" volunteer team. Utah Jazz owner Greg Miller also was on hand.

Diners ate steak that was furnished by the Mormon church and prepared by chefs at the Grand America Hotel. Scalloped potatoes, salad, a roll and a piece of chocolate cream pie also were served.

Buck Gage, a Salvation Army cook, called the scene "awesome" as visitor after visitor enjoyed the dinner.

"Unless you have $10,000 in bills in your pocket," he said, "everybody's just two paychecks away from being in this line."

Mikelle and Josiah Gonsalez and their 3-month-old son, Kelden, had stood shivering outside thinking how it didn't seem much like Christmas. Unable to find work since spring, they have lived in the shelter since Kelden's birth.

"It's good," Mikelle said of the dinner.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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