Special touches: County employee uses creativity to enhance workplace
May 3, 2016 Times and Democrat article (reprinted with permission)
Article by DIONNE GLEATON T&D Staff Writer
Photo by LARRY HARDY, T&D
Candy bouquets, styrofoam booties and gift baskets are among the creations Charlene Brown has used to bring smiles to the faces of those with whom she interacts.
She hopes one day to turn her talents into a business.
Brown, who is employed as an administrative assistant in the Orangeburg County Planning Department, does more than just desk work. She is often called upon to help the department put extra touches on fruit baskets that are given to seniors at Christmas or to create unique baby shower souvenirs for a county employee who is expecting.
The County Calendar is also not exempt from her decorative touch, and neither are the tables and walls of a conference room where planning department employees may eat following a meeting.
Brown’s originality of thought and expression has earned her the designation as the exemplification of creativity for the month of April as part of Orangeburg County’s Community of Character initiative.
“I was very surprised” by the honor, Brown said. “I’m not very boastful about decorating. I just have a passion for it. I love doing it, but I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of person.”
She has been described as being able to use her creative abilities to make her workplace a nicer place to be.
“To me, ‘creative’ means thinking outside of the box and expressing yourself in a unique way. If we’re going to eat or something after a planning meeting, my coworker and I will have to set up. She always tells me, ‘Little girl, you just do too much,’” Brown said, laughing.
“For example, if we’re having cake and ice cream for an employee, I want tablecloths. I just want to go all out because I feel like those special touches make them feel you’ve put a lot of love into it,” she said.
One county employee and Clemson fan who was leaving to take a job with the City of Columbia was gifted with a huge orange basket filled with snacks and “a few other little touches of Orangeburg County to remember us by,” Brown said.
“It was things that he could actually use for something else at home. Being that he was a Clemson fan, it was personalized just for him,” she said. “With the senior fruit baskets, I may want to add colors and bows. I want it to be something more.”
“Where they might ask, ‘Should we just put it in a bag,’ I want to put beautiful stuff in it and make it look like it was actually just bought from the store,” Brown said.
When a small drop-in was held for an expectant mother of a boy, Brown said she wanted to “make it feel like a real baby shower.”
“I did souvenirs, where I took styrofoam cups and made little booties out of them. It had a blue bag stuck in it that was made to look like a sock and it was stuffed with candy,” she said.
Her family and closest friends are the biggest supporters of her creative talents. Whether it’s creating Easter baskets, decorating for children’s theme parties, or designing centerpieces and other items for graduation parties or church events, Brown is their go-to person.
“They support me well whenever I have a party or an event to do. I actually one day want to open up a decorating business. My niece has already given me a name: Unique Affairs. She said that’s what I need to call it because I try to personalize whatever I do for someone,” said Brown, who has also handled weddings.
Creating candy boxes for children of her coworkers is also something the Santee resident enjoys doing.
“Whenever my boss’s two little sons and the son of one of my other coworkers come by, they just take to me. Whenever their birthdays come around, they always come to me for candy or treats,” Brown said.
“So I’ll just take boxes like the ones that Gummy Lifesavers come in, shape them into a box and then make candy bouquets out of them for the kids. They love them for their birthdays.”
She said she can attribute her creative talents to her mother, Dorothy, whose sewing creations were remarkable.
“My mom was a seamstress who loved making clothes. As children, my siblings and I didn’t have to buy anything because she was always making us something. She was making every little outfit that came in the store. She loves to sew, and I wish I could,” Brown said, smiling.
She said she wanted to thank those who nominated her for the OCCOC award and she praised the program for working to spread good character throughout the community. She said it is a way for those who practice good character to be recognized.
Brown said, “I think that it is a great thing that the county has started. There are so many others that portray good character.”