By Natalie Simms
While most of us are preparing to hang the mistletoe and tinsel in our home for the Christmas season, Rome native Carol Rutledge has set her sights on decorating something of much grander scale…the White House in Washington, D.C.
Rutledge is a master gardener and entrepreneur who developed her own Blue Bottles Botanicals skin care line, along with her new custom plant design company Bluem. Wanting to share her creative talents, she applied to be one of the volunteers to help First Lady Melania Trump decorate for Christmas.
“It’s just such an honor to be one of the 150 chosen from thousands of applicants,” says Rutledge, who previously owned Great Harvest Bread Co. on Broad Street, before she sold the business in June 2015 to Doug Bowling, now home to Doug’s Deli Downtown.
“I just went to the White House Visitor Center webpage and applied to be a volunteer to decorate. I actually have volunteered at the White House before for the Egg Roll at Easter, so this isn’t the first time I have worked with the First Family,” she says.
“On the application, I included that I had volunteered at the White House before, as well as all of my qualifications including my master gardener certification and Blue Bottle Botanicals website…those probably helped me in the selection process.”
Rutledge is well-known for her gardening skills. She completed the master gardener certification course through the University of Georgia Floyd County Extension Office and is required to maintain a certain level of community service hours to keep her certification. She also serves as president of the Seven Hills Garden Club.
“The White House uses fresh greenery, garlands and live trees…things that I have experience with, although I don’t know what area I will be working in until I arrive,” she says.
Rutledge will report in Washington, D.C. on the Friday after Thanksgiving and will be working daily for four days through Monday, Dec. 2, from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
“We’re all volunteers…there is no payment…we all donate our time and resources. We have to pay for our accommodations but luckily, my daughter is in D.C., so I will be staying with her. I have to meet the White House shuttle at a nearby hotel at 6 a.m. that will take us over to the White House,” she says.
“We will be fed breakfast and then will be divided into teams and given assignments of where we will be working. When I worked with the Egg Roll, they gave us aprons and hats to wear and just made us feel so welcome. I assume this experience will be similar. The First Lady is a very gracious hostess.”
Rutledge had to pass a very extensive security and background check. She will not be allowed to take any photos with her cell phone while in the White House.
“I will have the opportunity to go into places of the White House to decorate that are restricted from public viewing. I can’t wait to see all the special areas. It really is such an honor,” she says.
Rutledge says the 150 volunteers have been divided into two groups of 75 each. One group will be in Washington, D.C. the week before Thanksgiving getting the Christmas decorations out of storage and prepped for Rutledge’s group that will arrive after Thanksgiving to do the actual decorating.
“They will provide all the decorations and materials we will need, so I don’t have to bring anything,” she says.
In the meantime, Rutledge is staying busy doing plant arrangements for Christmas for local customers as well as coordinating the orchid fundraiser sale for the Seven Hills Garden Club. Anyone interested in Bluem’s plant design services, can email firstname.lastname@example.org.