Decorating White House 'such a unique experience’

White House photos by Alex Brandon/Associated Press
The Green Room is decorated during the 2019 Christmas preview at the White House on Monday. Maureen Braun of Jasper was one of hundreds of volunteers who helped decorate, but couldn’t divulge detailed information about the White House’s transformation process. She did say, though, that she worked on ornaments for the Christmas tree in the building’s Green Room.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In pictures, it looks like a fairy tale.

A forest of evergreens stand throughout the White House, illuminated by white lights and adorned with pine cones and glittering ornaments. Some are decorated with American flag trinkets and bows; another honors Gold Star families with golden stars and patriotic ribbons.

According to the White House website, this year’s Christmas decorating theme is “The Spirit of America,” and shines as “a tribute to the traditions, customs, and history that make our Nation great.”

A Jasper woman helped bring it to life.

Maureen Braun has 41 years of Christmas decorating expertise. She owns Finishing Touches — a home decor and gift shop located just off Jasper’s Courthouse Square that opened in 1978 — and has helped fill rooms with holiday goodies ever since. She has also helped decorate commercial trees.

White House photo tweeted by Melania Trump
Volunteers, including Maureen Braun of Jasper, create ornaments to adorn the Christmas tree in the White House's Green Room.

Maureen was one of several thousand people who submitted an online application to be part of the White House winter beautification team, and she was one of just a fraction of that number who were selected to transform the presidential palace. According to the Associated Press, more than 225 volunteers were chosen to help with the work.

“For me, it was the Super Bowl of decorating,” Maureen said in a Tuesday phone interview. “This was just the top for me. I love Christmas and always have, and to be able to participate as a volunteer was just amazing.”

The White House decorations were designed by First Lady Melania Trump to “celebrate the courageous individuals who have shaped our country and kept the American spirit alive,” the estate’s website reads. Maureen, who is the wife of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, described the result as a Christmas explosion of colors and scents. She and fellow attendees were thankful for the opportunity to create the festive atmosphere.

“Many of us felt like we won the lottery, actually,” Maureen said. “Because it was such a unique experience.”

During the three days Maureen lent her talents to the team last week, work stretched from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. She couldn’t divulge detailed information about the White House’s transformation process, but she did say that she worked on ornaments for the Christmas tree in the building’s Green Room.

A fireplace mantle is decorated in the Green Room during the 2019 Christmas preview at the White House, Monday. Maureen Braun of Jasper was one of more than 225 volunteers chosen to help decorate the White House for the holidays.

Evidence of this can be found online. The First Lady tweeted a collection of action shots taken of decorators, and in the bottom right-hand corner of one, Maureen can be seen crafting one of the tiny novels. By Monday night, that post had been retweeted nearly 9,000 times and had been favorited by 45,000 users.

“And it was just so much fun,” Maureen said. “And also working with people and meeting people from all over the country, it was just an honor and one of the things that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

She added that it was the most beautiful decorating process she’d ever been a part of. Extensive planning goes into making sure everything is just right in the building, which represents all Americans.

“The White House is the people’s house,” she said. “So, we want it to be very special for everyone who’s coming to visit. And I felt especially happy that I got to be on a team that got to make the books and the ornaments and create a very unique piece for the White House. That was very special.”

She hopes to return as a decorating volunteer in the future. Soon, the team’s work will be featured on HGTV. An air date for that program has not been set.

The official White House Christmas tree is decorated in the Blue Room during the 2019 Christmas preview at the White House on Monday.



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