Local florist invited to the White House to decorate for Christmas

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PANAMA CITY. Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - What's left of Callaway Country Florist lies in what's left of the Whittles' home. Loose baskets, a few antiques, and boxes filled with miscellaneous items are the only things Buddy and Shirley Whittle were able to save after Hurricane Michael.

The Whittles plan to remind folks the Panhandle is still suffering. (WJHG/WECP)

"All of the trees on the side had come down into the building, and pretty much cut it in half," Shirley said.

October 1, 2018, marked the business's 32nd anniversary, only to be destroyed nine days later.

"What little work I am able to do, it's here [in the house]. Or it's at a local flower shop," Shirley said.

Little did she know, one email was about to brighten up her very dark year. In fact, it was an email she first thought was spam.

"And I run across this thing that said 'White House,' and it was in [a] different font, so I looked at it and I thought, 'What is this?'" Shirley said. "It was an invitation to come, and I'm thinking, 'I didn't ask.'"

The email was an invitation to come help decorate the White House for Christmas. It's an opportunity thousands apply to, but only a fraction are chosen for.

"This is something you can always carry with you. So whoever did it, I thank them," Shirley said. And to this day, she still doesn't know who nominated her.

The message Shirley wants to spread with her trip to the White House: anything is possible.

And while she and Buddy are there, they plan to remind folks the Panhandle is still suffering.

"If people ask, I'm going to be the first one to tell them, 'You guys forgot us,'" Shirley said.

The Whittles continue to move forward, and even though they may not have a house, America still has one.

"I'm going to work on the people's house. The White House is ours," Shirley said.

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