- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Christmas season at the White House this year will have an extra tinge of green — 800 ornaments recycled from previous administrations.

First lady Michelle Obama said Wednesday the ornaments were sent to 60 community groups across the U.S. with the assignment to decorate them as a tribute to a favorite landmark.

Mrs. Obama said planning for the holiday season — her first in the White House — began this summer and this year’s idea started with the “very simple” premise of including “as many people, in as many places, in as many ways as we can.”

Among the ornaments on the first family’s Christmas tree and elsewhere in the White House are replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the lesser-known Davy Crockett Park in Tennessee.

Mrs. Obama said one of the new decorations is a miniature likeness of family dog Bo and one of her favorites is a decoration honoring the Lincoln Park Zoo, in her hometown of Chicago.

The first lady said this year’s theme is Reflect, Rejoice and Renew.

“For the Obama family, Christmas and the New Year has always been a time to reflect on our many blessings, to rejoice in the pleasure of spending time with our family and our friends, and to renew our commitment to one another and to the causes that we believe in,” she said. “And I wanted to continue that part of the tradition during our first holiday season here at the White House.”

The first lady made her comments during a tour of the White House, the day after the first of an estimated 50,000 visitors will see the decorations.

“It’s safe to say that everyone was really impressed,” Mrs. Obama said.

White House staffers and 92 volunteers from 24 states hung the ornaments over several days.

“A visit to the White House is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it has been made even more magical because of all of your hard work, all of our volunteers,” Mrs. Obama said. “Your work has really transformed the White House, which is, as we always say, the people’s house.

Mrs. Obama said the White House will focus its charitable efforts this season on helping local food banks and the Toys for Tots program.

“No child in the United States of America should ever go to bed hungry,” she said. “And no family in this country should have to worry that they won’t have food on the table, not just during the holidays, but every day.”

Mrs. Obama said the White House will join the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Agriculture Department in starting the United We Serve “Feed a Neighbor” initiative, which will provide Americans with resources to help combat hunger in their own communities.

The first lady called the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program a “great example of how servicemen and women are doing even more than just serving our country in uniform.”

Mrs. Obama said she will go the program’s headquarters — outside of Marine Corps base Quantico, Va., — to personally deliver the toys collected at the White House.

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