Fayette’s Deborah Lum helps decorate the White House

Fayette County resident Deborah Lum dons her “Holidays at the White House 2012” apron and points to a Presidential Christmas ornament that reflects her recent trip to the Washington, D.C., to assist other volunteers in decorating the White House for the Christmas holidays. Photo/Ben Nelms.

For Fayette County resident Deborah Lum, it was a just the type of work she had been wanting. Lum traveled to Washington, D.C., in late November to join a host of volunteers charged with decorating the White House for the Christmas holidays.

Lum toured the White House during the Christmas season in 2009 and later saw a show about the decorating effort by volunteers on HGTV. One of the volunteers interviewed said she had written an letter asking to be selected to help decorate. Taking that lead, Lum wrote letters in 2011 and 2012 and, in September, was notified that she had been selected to decorate this year. With her subsequent background check completed, Lum set off for Washington, D.C., on Thanksgiving morning.

The two-part task was to go through the existing Christmas decorations stored in an off-site warehouse, select the ones to be used and then to put their skills to work outfitting the White House for the holidays. Lum initially had eight members on her team. And her group during the five-day visit was one of many tasked with the responsibility of decorating 17 rooms in the White House and portions of the building’s exterior. Those efforts took three days.

As for Lum’s group, their assignment was to decorate the East Room.

“It was really neat. The whole thing clicked really well,” Lum said.

Lum is no stranger to decorating, as she owns a window treatment business and has to take an entire room and a home into account when working with her customers.

Specific to her work at the White House, Lum said she was responsible for three wreaths and a 16-foot Christmas tree. It may sound simple, but outfitting the East Room came only after “we went through tons of decorations.” And the work has to be special. After all, it’s the White House.

“All the volunteers had a sense of pride,” Lum said of the efforts to make sure the White House was at its best for the many holiday visitors.

When all was done, said Lum, the nearly 300 volunteers and others decorating the White House were treated to a reception hosted by Michelle Obama.

“It was awe-inspiring. Walking up the the White House is kind of surreal. (And) inside there’s so much history and detail,” Lum said smiling. “It was a nice little vacation. I would like to be selected again.”

To see what Lum and the decorating teams accomplished tune in to HGTV on Dec. 22 at 12 a.m. and 9 p.m. and on Dec. 24 at 11 a.m.