“I was sitting on the floor in the East Room at the White House putting lights on trees, listening to Christmas carols and Silent Night comes on. I started to cry and wondered, ‘Who gets this chance?’” former Douglas resident Lish Murphy said. “It was incredibly overwhelming.”
It turned out to be an adventure of a lifetime for her. For instance, after the volunteers had been decorating for a while, a Secret Service agent suggested they go look out the window in the Blue Room.
“We went to the window and saw President Trump with his family out in the yard, pardoning turkeys,” Murphy said. “Who gets a chance to see that?”
And none of it could have happened had Murphy not come upon the opportunity accidently. She was working on her computer last August when she saw an article about volunteers being sought to decorate the White House for Christmas. She clicked on some links and found an application form that she filled out for this life changing event.
Writing the essay came next.
“I wrote that I live in the least populated county in the least populated state and that I’m a coal miner,” Murphy said. “If you were a florist or decorator, you could attach photos of your work, but I just told them about me.”
Perhaps it was the simplicity of her essay, her mention of the coal industry or just her desire to be a small part of history; whatever caught their attention, it worked.
“On October 1st, I got an email saying that my application was accepted,” Murphy said. “The next step was the background check for security clearance.”
Once the clearance was approved, she had about a month to book the plane tickets and hotel.
She also had some shopping to do.
“The instructions said to dress in business casual,” she laughed. “I work at the coal mine. I haven’t had business clothes for over 15 years.”
No matter what she had to do, her husband Larry was right beside her.
“He was so happy that I got this opportunity,” she said.
She was scheduled to help decorate Nov. 19-21. At first, her group was told they would work in the warehouse all three days, but that changed suddenly after the first day.
“They told us that we would be decorating the White House the next two days, and I was walking on air,” she said. “It didn’t matter what job they gave me, I was going to the White House. This was a dream come true.”
Murphy was gone for 11 days. She wanted to stay for the reception that First Lady Melania Trump was hosting for all 225 volunteers who put in the hours getting the peoples’ house ready for the holidays.
“I will definitely apply every year,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who the President is or what their politics are.
“It’s the peoples’ house, it’s our house.”