Alabama man chosen to help decorate White House at Christmas



Randy Harwood loves his country and loves Christmas.

So when he got an email last week informing him of his selection to help decorate the White House for Christmas, well, you can only imagine his reaction.

“I got chill bumps all over me,” he said. “That’s how I felt when I read it. It was like reading you won the lottery. It was that exciting.”

Each year, the White House accepts applications for volunteers to help decorate the president’s home. There perhaps has never been a more fitting applicant than Harwood.

He lives in Arab – about 30 miles south of downtown Huntsville – after serving 23 years in the Army, retiring in 2015 as a master sergeant. And when it comes to Christmas, he decorates not only his house but the homes of friends if they ask.

“I always like to decorate our house for Christmas a lot,” he said. “Put up about three or four trees. Decorate every room just because I like it. It kind of gives me a creative outlet.”

Randy Harwood

Randy Harwood of Arab has been selected to help decorate the White House for Christmas.

So when Harwood learned about the chance to apply to help decorate the White House, he figured, hey, why not?

“Back in August, they were taking the applications for volunteers,” Harwood said. “I thought, I’m not going to get picked but just by some miracle if I do, this would be like the greatest thing I could think of doing to still serve my country and do something I really enjoy doing every year at my own house.”

Then there was last Friday’s email, the subsequent chill bumps and Harwood will be at the White House on Nov. 25 for three days of decorating just before Thanksgiving.

In the past, the White House has had about 150 volunteers decorate the residence and Harwood said he expected there would be about that many this year. Harwood said that last year, there were about 8,000 applicants and he suspected that this year the number was higher because the White House needed more time than expected to sort through the applications.

“I told them I look at it as a way I can still serve my country even though I’m retired military,” Harwood said of what he included in his online application. “This is the White House – this is the White House. I put that in the application and didn’t really expect to get picked. Ended up I did.”

As a volunteer, of course, all expenses come from the volunteer’s wallet and Harwood said, “I’m happy to do that, very happy to do that.”

And in his mind’s eye, it’s already beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

“I’m so excited about it,” Harwood said. “It’s hard to think about anything else. It’s just crazy. It’s one of those crazy things.”