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Charlotte Elder’s side gig

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

There are those who of us who like to take some time during the day to relax and not really do much of anything. There are others who feel the need to stay busy all the time.

Charlotte Elder is just such a person.

Charlotte works a full time shift at Korona Candles starting at 5 a.m. and ending at 2 in the afternoon … unless she’s needed to work overtime, in which case she might well work a 12-hour day.

“I make the labels for what they want on the production floor and if the schedule gets changed, then they gotta have the new labels to run it with,” said Charlotte.

When not working 9 to 12 hour shifts at the candle factory, Charlotte works as a seamstress doing alterations for Lis De La Valle, a boutique clothing store owned by Yolanda Hunter at 71 Maple Street in Pulaski.

Charlotte Elder has been doing seamstress work for the past 20 years and frequently works as an independent contractor doing alterations, cushion covers or whatever else might require someone with her sewing skills.

Not one to waste time, Charlotte has recently been inspired to turn her talents toward producing an item suddenly very much in demand, personal protective equipment in the form of face masks.

“My daughter is a registered nurse at Centra Hospital in Lynchburg and they were running low on masks, so I shipped 75 to her,” said Charlotte. “She gave them to the nurse’s office shift and the night shift and then they had some elderly people in their church, so she made sure they were all protected. Then she had a special needs child in her neighborhood so she made sure that whole family was taken care of.”

One of Charlotte Elder’s hobbies is collecting fabric, which seems appropriate for a seamstress.

“I have fabric at the house,” said Charlotte. “I like fabrics. I’ve been collecting them for years. I just pull it off my shelf and put some filter material in it. I make a bunch at a time. I’ll side seam some and then I’ll put my elastic in them. Then I turn them, then I pleat them and they’re good.”

Charlotte makes 60 to 100 masks out of one sheet of material and to date she has single handedly produced an astounding 3,600 face masks.

“I’ve given them away and I’ve sold them,” said Charlotte. “People come by and tell me they’ve been sick or they’ve got family in the hospital and I just give them to them. I have a friend that has lung cancer, I made sure she was covered. We gave some to the town police, the Sheriff’s Department and the 911 Dispatchers.”

Charlotte estimates that she’s given away more than 800 masks for free but has sold still many more.

“People wanted to buy them so I started selling them,” said Charlotte. “I sell them at Corona. Pulaski County bought some. The lady over security at Volvo has been selling some. I also have a lot at Yolanda Hunter’s store.”

Charlotte has done alterations for Yolanda for more than a decade and when Yolanda Hunter fell ill with a brain bleed last year, Charlotte came to her aid.

“Charlotte and my nephew Tyler helped me with the store when I was down,” said Hunter. “She came and sat in the store, just so I could be here and I could keep my doors open. I feel like, you know, pay it forward. So that was when I decided to help deliver her masks.”

For the past several weeks, Yolanda Hunter has hand delivered lots of masks to those who were unable to come to her. As of this week, Hunter is stocking protective masks made by Charlotte Elder at her other store, The Perfect Fit, which is right next to Lis De La Valle, her formal wear shop.

When not making masks or working long hours at the candle factory, Charlotte Elder still does alterations for her friend and employer Yolanda Hunter and her dress shop.

“You can actually walk in off the street and we can do the alterations there,” said Charlotte.

How long will she keep making masks?

“As long as people need them, I’ll keep doing them,” said Charlotte.

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