OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea - Tis’ the season for colorful ornaments, tinsel and thousands of twinkling lights. While most of us decorate our own homes, there is a woman at Osan AB who decorates one of the most iconic homes in America, the White House.
Ms. Nicole Barber-White, 7th Air Force commander’s executive secretary, has helped decorate the White House since 2012 during the Obama administration. She has also provided holiday decorating services to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Biden, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and this year to the Trump family.
“This year at the White House, it was a very classic look, a very elegant with less is more per say. Previous years, it was colorful, bright and fun,” said Barber-White. “The Obama’s had rooms with all different themes, like a room dedicated to recycling and another with the theme of Bo and Sunny, their pets.”
The decorating process takes no more than a week to complete and employs over 180 volunteers. These volunteers are accompanied by the White Staff, designers and security. All White House tours are shut down for decorating due the number of people and boxes that are scattered all over the home.
“We have to be done in about three to five days once we are in the home, because it is not only a living museum, it is still a home for the president and his family to live in,” said Barber-White.
During this week, the first stage is preparation, where some of the volunteers are taken to a secret warehouse to ensure that everything they need for each room is prepped and ready to go in the house. The second stage is actually going into the home and decorating each and every room.
“There were four of us that decorated the Red Room. It was great because I actually prepped the Red Room the previous days at the warehouse, so I knew exactly how I wanted to design it and what it was it supposed to look like,” said Barber-White. “I was blessed to be able to be a part of the prep and room decorating, not everyone gets that opportunity.”
Considering that the White House is a huge home, it is safe to assume there are a huge number of ornaments and other decorations that go into it. The volunteers work with over 50,000 different ornaments of all shapes and sizes, some of which have to be made by the volunteers at the warehouse. The Christmas tree in Blue Room, the most photographed room in the White House, has over 500 ornaments, ten for each state, and over 30,000 lights.
“The theme in the Red Room this year was candy,” says White. “So along with 800 lights on the tree, a lot of the ornaments were edible as well as a lot of the other decorations in the room.”
The opportunity requires volunteers to go through an application process in which they have to be accepted. Once chosen, they have to be sure they are actually able to attend, and this whole decorating process usually takes place during the week of Thanksgiving. For White, the experience is a catch-22.
“It’s very hard to be away from my husband and my daughters, that’s the horrible part of it. It’s just not feasible for me to take them with me and then work 12 hour days,” said Barber-White. “But the best part of it is going each and every time. It never gets old. It’s not guaranteed I’ll get selected, so I’m truly blessed by the hand of god each time I get to go.”
Ms. Nicole Barber-White poses for a photo at White House in Washington D.C. She is one of many volunteers that decorates the White House for the holiday season. (Courtesy Photo)
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