California woman helps decorate White House for Christmas

The Sacramento BeeDecember 3, 2009 

For Julie Reinking, this is a Christmas dream come true. After years of trying, the Carmichael nurse helped deck the White House halls.

For five days in Washington, D.C., Reinking dutifully hot-glued decorations and hung handmade ornaments. With Secret Service hovering nearby, she fussed over intricate floral arrangements and straightened garlands under presidential portraits. In a volunteer battalion, she undertook a ritual few see firsthand – the transformation of the White House into the nation's home for the holidays.

"I've never been involved with anything this big before," Reinking said by phone from Washington.

In a media preview Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama welcomed the nation to see its most famous residence done up for Christmas.

More than 60,000 visitors tour the White House each holiday season, and millions more view it via TV or online.

And Reinking has her daughter to thank for the "greatest gift I could ever imagine" – her hands-on role.

"Whenever I see photos of the White House at Christmas, I burst out crying," said Reinking, a registered nurse at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento. "It's something I wanted to do for decades."

Her selection came after dedicated campaigning by daughter Laura Blay. A senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she is on an internship in D.C. She started writing Michelle Obama and her staff every week shortly after President Barack Obama took office.

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