Missouri woman helps decorate White House for Christmas

In this Wednesday Nov. 30, 2011 photo provided by Kathy Gastinger, Gastinger poses in the White House in Washington D.C., after she and her sister, Paula Krajcir, helped decorate the White House for the 2011 Christmas season.

In this Wednesday Nov. 30, 2011 photo provided by Kathy Gastinger, Gastinger poses in the White House in Washington D.C., after she and her sister, Paula Krajcir, helped decorate the White House for the 2011 Christmas season.

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A St. Charles County woman known for lavish Christmas decorations at her home helped decorate another house this year — the White House.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/ugyDH4) reports that Ramona Jones-Williams of O'Fallon was one of 136 volunteers from 37 states chosen to decorate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For the past 20 years, the hair salon operator has decorated her own home with 13 individually themed Christmas trees. She wrote to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Rep. Todd Akin seeking to do the volunteer work at the White House and got confirmation in October.

"I started screaming when I received the phone call from the White House social office," Jones-Williams said. "I scared my daughter."

About 85,000 visitors are expected to tour the White House in December, said Hannah August, press secretary for first lady Michelle Obama. This year's theme — Shine, Give, Share — features shiny star motifs and mirrored paper, along with handmade decorations crafted from paper, felt and even recycled cans.

Jones-Williams worked on a variety of decorations during the five-day event, including cutting and pasting photos of military families into frames made from acorns. The frames hang on the Christmas tree in the Blue Room.

She constructed a 75-foot-long swag to hang over the door of the State Dining Room, made with bamboo leaves and natural garland. And she made a garland from leaves drawn on construction paper and attached fishing line to crystal snowflakes.

"I strung about 1,000 leaves and made 300 snowflakes to hang from the ceiling," Jones-Williams said.

She was assigned to the Grand Foyer her final three days, where she decorated four 15 ½-foot-tall trees trimmed with pine cones and plastic snowflakes. Beads were placed on every branch.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime moment," she said. "I'll never forget the tears as I took my first step into the White House. It was very emotional. I'm a small-town girl from O'Fallon, Mo., and my father worked so hard for civil rights and my great-great grandparents were slaves."


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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