Sign In or Register here


Volunteers Deck the Halls at The White House

Gale Curcio
By Gale Curcio
Posted on Dec 07,2011
Filed Under News , Community, Entertainment , Local Style,
Share  


Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />Heather Cooper and White House Florist Laura Dowling of Old Town help the children make miniature versions of Bo, the White House dog.
Photo by Gale Curcio
Heather Cooper and White House Florist Laura Dowling of Old Town help the
children make miniature versions of Bo, the White House dog.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Fifteen years ago, David Bondarchuck was homeless.
 
Last week, he was at The White House with other volunteers welcoming members of military families and reporters.

Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />Mrs. Obama brings out the real Bo to see the children.
Photo by Gale Curcio
Mrs. Obama brings out the real Bo to
see the children.

As the owner of Scratch Catering Services, Bondarchuck was selected as a Holiday White House Decorator. Like hundreds of others, he sent in multiple requests to garner one of about 90 coveted spots for volunteers.

His application process began in November, 2009; this past September he was accepted and confirmed. Bondarchuck was lead decorator for the Green Room and the Red Room. Using eucalyptus and twigs, he said, “I wanted to bring sparkle and shine into the room.

“My time at the White House was a dream come true. I always wanted to go there just like Martha Stewart did while Hillary Clinton was in the house. The entire experience was just a dream. But the best part of the experience was meeting so many other passionate people from all over the country I learned so much from them.”

A third generation native to Colorado, Bondarchuck was homeless at age 16, and stayed at the youth Gemini Homeless Shelter near Colfax and Simms. During this period, Bondarchuck spent hours in the Denver Public Library; it was there that he discovered cooking and lifestyle books which sparked his interest and passion for entertaining.

Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />Margaret Snodgrass helped decorate the Vermeil Room.
Photo by Gale Curcio
Margaret Snodgrass helped decorate the
Vermeil Room.

Bondarchuck received his high school diploma in Greeley, Colo. in 2001, and continued to teach himself the techniques of cooking, baking, and decorating. He developed the skills to begin catering professionally and formed his business  in 2007. His love for making things beautiful extends beyond plating foods and writing recipes, and into decorating.

Bondarchuck spoke with the White House chefs almost daily, and said, “I loved the Gingerbread house. When I heard they were placing it in the State Dining Room I went running – one of the Secret Service guys asked ‘What is your problem?’”

“I said, “It’s the house, the house, It’s what I came for!” He laughed at me and said, “As you were!” I bolted to the dining room. I got to the room in time to see them place Bo on the display!”

Volunteer Richard Naughton helped decorate the Grand Foyer, which holds three trees, garland and a multitude of ornaments. He said that all the trees were live because Mrs. Obama wanted to bring nature inside. They also used a lot of pine cones and snowflakes.
 
“I watched the HGTV show about the decorations in 2010,” Naughton said. “I wrote a letter in March, 2011 and received the invitation late in August. I’m an Air Force reservist and I said, “I should do that, I want to do that.”

Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />Elizabeth Gaines was a decorator in the China Room.
Photo by Gale Curcio
Elizabeth Gaines was a decorator in the
China Room.

Elizabeth Gaines of St. Louis, MO., who helped decorate the China Room, also saw the HGTV show last year.
 
“I emailed in the summer and got my acceptance in October," she recalled. "It’s been a phenomenal experience – once in a lifetime. I’ve met people from all walks of life. Me and four other volunteers were given a box of decorations and told to go for it. We had a lot of creative ideas. They [the White House staff] gave us some suggestions but they were pleased with what we did.”

Jacqueline Hill, a certified designer from Redding, PA, calls herself fortunate. "Myself and two other volunteers were given a box and we let loose in the Library," she recalled. "We used the ornaments that went with the room and I made a red and burgundy bow. Red is my favorite color.”

Hill said that she and the other volunteers started working the day after Thanksgiving. On Saturday, they worked in the warehouse and then finished decorating on Sunday.

After visitors to the White House got their first viewing of the 2011 holiday decorations, Mrs. Obama addressed the guests, which included Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children.

Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />David Haughton stands in the Grand Foyer, which he helped to decorate.
Photo by Gale Curcio
David Haughton stands in the Grand Foyer, which
he helped to decorate.

She delivered her remarks in the East Room, and then invited the military children to join her in the State Dining Room as White House Chefs Cris Comerford and Bill Yosses and White House Florist Laura Dowling of Old Town, Alexandria demonstrated holiday crafts and treats. This year, a special Gold Star Christmas tree decorated by Gold Star families is being displayed at the visitor’s entrance on the East Wing Landing. The theme of this year’s Blue Room Christmas Tree honors Blue Star families.

In the audience was Elaine Freeman. A member of the National Military Family Association, she was invited as a Blue Star wife. Her husband, who served 30 years in the military and 14 years at the Pentagon, died several years ago.

Freeman is also a member of United States Tennis Association (USTA) and said that they work with the White House to provide portable tennis courts and care packages to military members in Afghanistan.

“Michelle did  a great commercial for USTA to promote fitness,” Freeman said. “Michelle was a great actor.”

Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />Mrs. Obama welcomes guests to the White House.
Photo by Gale Curcio
Mrs. Obama welcomes guests to the
White House.

As a recreational tennis player, Freeman said that it really opened doors when she and her husband traveled overseas.

“No matter where you go, you take a racket, shoes and balls, and you’re in,” she said.


Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />Young boy is all smiles as he creates a Bo to take home.
Photo by Gale Curcio
Young boy is all smiles as he creates a Bo to
take home.


Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />White House chefs help children decorate cookies.
Photo by Gale Curcio
White House chefs help children decorate cookies.


Photo by Gale Curcio <br /> <br />Mrs. Obama points out the White House to the children.
Photo by Gale Curcio
Mrs. Obama points out the White House
to the children.





Loading Loading..


Shopping and Services Guide


Exclusive deals from the best locals!

Browse our highlighted partners
Spas, retailers, restaurants and…
so much more.