MATTHEWS – Butler High School teacher Janet Prevatte recently took some time off of work to take part in one of the greatest opportunities she said she’s ever had.
The life skills and design teacher has been decorating, designing and staging as long as she can remember. She’s spent the past 40 years, 34 in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, teaching students valuable life skills, home economics, interior design and apparel design. And she loves decorating for the holidays, which is why she’s been asked numerous times before to help decorate for friends and family.
But the HGTV junkie recently had the opportunity to take her design and decorating skills to the next level. Hopping on a plane Thanksgiving Day, Prevatte spent the next week in the United States’ most well-known home.
“I had seen the HGTV Christmas at the White House show. The channel said each year (that) volunteers come to decorate the White House,” Prevatte said. “I went online and applied in
August, and in October I got a letter that I was invited!”
Prevatte was part of the more than 80 volunteers who made ornaments, strung lights, fluffed ribbon and helped make the 2013 holiday wonderland tradition a reality. First Lady Michelle Obama chooses a theme for the home’s holiday each year, and for 2013 she picked “Gather Round,” which celebrates spending time with loved ones during the holiday season. Each room in the White House showcases the theme with handmade decorations and unique Christmas trees, according to the White House website.
Prevatte’s assignment was the lower Cross Hall, a frequent thoroughfare to the Oval Office and an often-traveled hallway of President Barack Obama. It’s always been a dream for Prevatte to visit the White House, and an even bigger dream to meet a United States president. In this case, both her dreams were fulfilled.
“Many times we were asked to move back into another room as President Obama came through,” Prevatte said. “But one time, they said, ‘He would like to meet the volunteers.’ I was just about to faint, really.”
Prevatte calls the whole experience both “thrilling and exciting,” meeting not only the president, but his wife and HGTV’s Genevieve Gorder, a decorating icon in the eyes of Prevatte. HGTV filmed their White House Christmas 2013 special, which originally aired Dec. 15. Prevatte said she could be spotted at least four times in the special.
“It was just one exciting thing after the next,” she said, adding she also met people from all over the country. Prevatte was just one of two volunteers from North Carolina, the other hailing from the Raleigh area, she said.
As part of the application process, Prevatte had to write an essay explaining why she wanted to help decorate and what skills she could bring to the table. She also had to provide photos of past rooms she had designed, and other projects she’s worked on. Along with decorators and designers, Prevatte said other volunteers consisted of floral decorators, cake decorators and more. She met two authors, an Antiques Roadshow appraiser and caterer for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day
She saw the traditional White House replica gingerbread house, which weighs about 300 pounds, ate breakfast and lunch in the White House, and attended Michelle Obama’s holiday reception, which unveiled this year’s
“I went before to Washington, D.C., but it was all about site seeing,” Prevatte said. “This time, I was on a mission. We started at 6:30 a.m. and worked until 4 p.m. I made some great friendships and worked with White House staff. I had to pay my own way, but it was so very worth it.”