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During Barack Obama's presidential run, Kim Eldridge, of Chesterton, was an active volunteer, helping people register to vote, making phone calls and whatever she could to turn out the vote.

She didn't expect anything in return, but she was thrilled when each Christmas she received a card from the White House in the mail.

"My husband and I were talking about how a lot of people volunteer but they don't get cards," said Eldridge, owner of Kim Eldridge Special Events Inc. "And so I decided to write (first lady) Michelle Obama and I included my business card and mentioned that I had a special events business and also that every year I watched the show where they decorate the White House. I also included photos of what I've done in my business such as designing and building centerpieces and graphic design."

Eldridge sent her card in February and months passed without her hearing back.

"Then at the end of July I received an email from the White House social secretary," Eldridge said. "It said that the first lady was requesting that I be part of a group that decorates the White House."

After passing a background check, Eldridge made the list as one of the 136 White House volunteers selected to decorate the White House for the holidays. The theme, selected by Michelle Obama, was "Shine, Give, Share" in honor of the sacrifices made by this country's men and women in uniform as well as their families.

Their job was to make the 13 rooms on display to be perfect for the more than 185,000 visitors expected over the holidays.

Arriving on Thanksgiving, Eldridge and the other volunteers stayed in hotels just a short walk from the White House. Their days of decorating began at 6 a.m. and ended well into the evening.

"The first two days we went to the White House warehouse where they keep their Christmas decorations," said Eldridge who spent nine days in D.C. "The first lady wanted to repurpose much of that, to look at what was there -- to use it, paint it and refurbish it."

One of her first tasks was to refurbish the gold stars she found in the warehouse. Old and falling apart, Eldridge repainted and resurfaced them. The stars were used to create an archway.

One of her other assignments was decorating the giant tree in the Blue Room.

"That's the one that gets delivered by horse drawn cart each year," she said.

Told that they had to keep quiet about their work, that meant having to keep quiet after petting Bo, the Obama family dog or seeing daughters Sasha and Malia Obama in the hallway.

Once the project was completed, the first lady hosted a party to reveal the decorated rooms to the press. Eldridge attended with her husband, Steve.

"The first lady came out and spoke to us," Eldridge said. "She was very warm and gracious. I've had my business since 1995, and I've done many things, but I think this is the best."

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