A Christmas experience not soon to be forgotten

Lish Murphy stands in the Blue Room in front of the official White House Christmas tree. Courtesy Photo

It has been said that Christmas is for children, but for one local woman, that sentiment could be debated.

Lish Murphey was reading a Fox News article about First Lady Melania Trump who was looking for volunteers to decorate the White House and she thought that was a really cool opportunity for those living in the Washington D.C. area. As she continued to read, there was a link for a White House press release that further explained the process of accepting applications from people across the United States. She filled out the application and she was accepted out of approximately 7000 applicants. About 120 people were chosen to work the three day before Thanksgiving, and a similar amount for the three days after the holiday. She traveled to Washington D.C. November 19, 20 and 21.

One of the requirements was to write a brief paragraph explaining why you wanted to be a volunteer. Murphy wrote that she was from Lusk, Wyoming, in Niobrara County the least populated county in the least populated state in the nation. She continued that she was a coal miner and commuted 125 miles, one way to work and that she would be honored to decorate the White House as a way of thanking President Trump and First Lady Melania for getting the coal industry back on track.

The White House staff were specifically looking for florists and those experienced in interior design and tried to choose candidates that have some past military experience or connection. Photo examples of the applicant’s work was also requested.

When she told her husband, Larry that she had applied, he responded with the question of what photos she sent. She replied that she didn’t send any because she didn’t know how to do that. But she was sure they would teach her what needed to be done.

Volunteer decorators have been utilized for decades. As a volunteer, you are required to pay all of your own expenses. A block of reserved motel rooms is where those chosen, meet to receive their assignments. Murphy was in the warehouse for one day, while some groups spent three days. On November 20 and 21, she had the honor of decorating in the White House.

The First Lady worked with a designer to come up with the year’s theme, “American Treasures”. The theme honors the unique heritage of America. First Lady Melania Trump released the statement, “Our theme honors the heart and spirit of the American people.  Thank you to the many volunteers and staff who worked hard to decorate the halls of the People’s House in Christmas cheer.  On behalf of my family, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

An event planner is chosen, who in turn hires six people to run each group. Each group if given a responsibility and they get to work. Murphy’s group was tasked with organizing ornaments that hadn’t been touched in over 12 years. Some boxes of ornaments were used, some donated and a few of the broken and damaged ones were discarded.

Murphy’s second and third days were spent stringing lights on the 55 live trees at the white House. Once lit, the next group placed the ornaments.

In the Library, there were four trees with an ornament from each state. Murphy thought she would never be able to find Wyoming’s decoration but when she entered the library, right at eye level, was the Wyoming ornament.

In the Blue Room, the official Christmas tree from North Carolina has embroidered banners from all of the states. Wyoming’s banner was located at the immediate center, at eye level when you entered the room.

The Gold Star Family Tree is located in the East Wing and is decorated by Gold Star families. This tree honors all troops and their families who have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms.  Gold stars and patriotic ribbon decorate the tree and visitors are encouraged to write messages to their loved ones who are on duty or abroad on the digital tablets provided.

The Blue Room contains the official 18 foot White House Christmas Tree, which is decorated with gold and blue ornaments that have the seals of all states and territories in the U.S. The Red Room has a tree adorned with cookie ornaments and surrounded by tasty sweets such as peppermint candies. The decor includes an homage to Nancy Reagan’s favorite decoration for the holidays, cranberry trees.

“I told my husband, who gets to sit on the floor of the East Room, stringing Christmas lights and singing Christmas carols and I didn’t care who heard me. It was overwhelming. I was crying. Who gets to do that?” 

HGTV will be airing The White House Christmas, December 9 at 6 p.m.

Murphy definitely represented our great state and county well. The opportunity made such an impression, she plans on applying again. A Christmas experience she is not soon to forget.


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