Area woman wins D.C. trip

Cyndi Russell

Rob C. Witzel / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 7:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 7:51 a.m.

Cynthia “Cyndi” Russell of Newberry was the first of 10 people in the nation who will receive an all-expense-paid trip to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.

The contest, “Your Ticket to History,” was held in an effort to generate donations for the inauguration but also to give 10 everyday people in the United States the chance to see Obama sworn in.

Russell owns Emerald Ventures, LLC, and Studio One Home Staging, LLC, both in Newberry. She is also the owner of Magnolia Manor Apartments at 3901 SW 27th Ave.

Her Web site describes her as an active home builder in a male-dominated industry.

“I’m a single woman who has been building homes for over 18 years,” Russell wrote, according to an e-mail sent out by the Obama campaign. “I’ve supported myself and have been able to help out my mother from time to time. Now I find myself wondering how much longer I can hold on and be able to pay my bills and keep the doors open for business.

“Barack gives me hope. Hope that 2009 will truly bring change to Americans who find themselves in this mess with me.”

Russell was unable to give interviews to media outlets on Tuesday because the Obama campaign had made an agreement with NBC’s “Today Show” for the first interview.

She was on a flight to New York Tuesday evening for the interview, said Maribeth Streeter, who has worked for Russell for six months.

“She got the phone call last night and it’s been a buzz,” Streeter said.

Russell started building homes in the Gainesville area in 1991 as the president of Emerald Ventures Inc.

Aside from home building, her Studio One company specializes in decorating and marketing homes that are for sale.

Russell wrote an essay to the Obama campaign explaining what the inauguration meant to her.

The inauguration tickets will allow Russell and a guest to attend a welcome ceremony, the swearing-in, the Inaugural Parade and an inaugural ball. “The inaugural committee reviewed the submissions and is selecting essays that we believe reflect the impact this is having on people from every corner of the nation,” said Melanie Roussell, regional spokeswoman for the Inauguration Committee.

The only other way to receive tickets for the inauguration is through U.S. senators and representatives.

Russell is the first of nine other yet-to-be announced winners in the contest.

Roussell said the competition is still open for entry until Thursday.

She emphasized that while there is the opportunity to donate money to the inauguration on the Web site, donations are not necessary to qualify for the competition.

According to various news outlets, the Inauguration Committee has already raised about $27 million in donations.

Roussell said Obama has set very strict limits on how much and who can donate to the inauguration.

“He’s not accepting money from corporations, political action committees, currently federally registered lobbyists, non-U.S. citizens and registered foreign agents,” Roussell said.

Additionally, Obama limited the donations from individuals to a maximum of $50,000, Roussell said. The limit for President George Bush was $250,000 and there is no law regulating these donations, she said.

Megan Rolland can be reached at 338-3104 or

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