Kim Eggert of Park Ridge grew up working in the floral industry, and in her adult life she has crafted a successful career as an interior designer, with a specialty in flower arrangements. Her favorite season is Christmas and she is known to go all out.
Yet never in her wildest dreams did she see herself parlaying her experience into helping decorate the White House for the holidays, let alone being on hand to see first lady Melania Trump unveil this year's designs.
"It was the experience of a lifetime, and something I'll never forget," said Eggert, who returned on Monday after spending nine days working on the decorations with a team of volunteers.
Eggert was among 150 volunteers who came from 29 states to help create the holiday display. Altogether, they worked more than 1,600 hours to create more than 12,000 ornaments, fashion bows out of 3,000 yards of holiday ribbon and decorate more than 1,000 feet of garland -- all before setting foot in the White House, according to a report on CNN.
For the first four days, Eggert said, they worked in teams at a secret warehouse in Maryland, where among Eggert's jobs was to paint stars for the Gold Star Family Tree, which stands in the East Room.
She also applied apples to garland and made decorative bows, all the while not knowing how each piece was going to come together to fit the "Time-Honored Traditions" theme chosen by the first lady.
On day five, the group arrived at the White House to begin the actual decorating -- after passing through several security checkpoints, Eggert said.
This time, Eggert was assigned the plum role of trimming the official White House tree -- an 18-foot balsam fir in the Blue Room that features glass ornaments depicting the seal of each state and territory, as well as large bows fashioned out of blue, silver and gold ribbon.
She also helped out with the tree in the Green Room, with its handcrafted ornaments all made of paper by fellow volunteers and tucked into yards and yards of green ribbon.
Eggert credits divine intervention with landing her the role. This summer, she describes hitting something of a roadblock when she questioned all of the grim news in the world. She said she prayed to God to help her turn her despair into something positive.
Acting on her newfound faith, Eggert penned a letter in August to the first lady and to Ivanka Trump, asking for the opportunity to be a part of the decorating efforts. She included photos of her work from her portfolio and even added that she lived in Park Ridge, hometown to Hillary Clinton.
In subsequent correspondence, Clinton was never mentioned, and politics never came up among the volunteers, she said.
"We were all too honored to be there," she added, explaining that she would have been just as excited by the opportunity if Clinton had been elected.
Eggert says she went through a thorough background check before getting word in mid-October that she had been accepted as one of the volunteers.
"The only thing I can tell you is that it was a miracle," said Eggert, who added that she and other volunteers paid her own way and all of her expenses, except breakfast and lunch.
"The whole staff of the White House -- from the maintenance people to the Secret Service and the cooks -- made us feel so welcome," she said. "You felt like you were appreciated."
They were. According to an official statement from the Office of the First Lady, their handiwork will be a big draw, with officials expecting to host approximately 100 open houses and receptions, while more than 25,000 visitors will tour the White House rooms.