Flore Auguste is a Haitian immigrant who believes one of the great things about America is the opportunity to hold multiple jobs at once.
In her case, that has included operating her own catering service, Three Sisters Caribbean Catering, while also working as a parking attendant.
But even people with a strong work ethic haven’t fully escaped the economic downturn.
Auguste was laid off from her job as a parking attendant in August, when the work was contracted out to another company. And her catering business continues to deal with dry spells as businesses cut back on expenses.
As a result, the divorced mother is raising her three girls on a fraction of the salary she was once earning.
The holidays will be tough this year, so she registered the two youngest girls, ages 6 and 9, to get toys from the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau. The program provides struggling parents with Christmas toys, paid for in part with money donated to the Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund.
The oldest of her children is a 17-year-old high school senior, and not eligible for the program.
“I’ve canceled everything I can live without,” said Auguste, 36, who moved to the United States in 1988. “I even had to get a roommate. I didn’t want to do that, but I also didn’t want to be in the streets.”
Her two youngest, Fior and Oriana, are hoping to get bikes and skates for Christmas, which are way out of Auguste’s price range. But she has made it a point to shield them from the financial troubles the family is facing. She doesn’t want them to worry.
“I can’t let them know that things aren’t the way they used to be,” Auguste says. “I have to wear a different facial expression when they’re home from school. They don’t want to hear about what we don’t have.”
It’s because of her own impoverished upbringing that Auguste prefers they not know the details.
Auguste says she was raised poor in the mountains of Haiti, in a home made of clay and grass, with no electricity, no phone and no indoor plumbing. Her mother eventually sent her to live with an aunt in the city of Les Cayes, but Auguste says it proved to be a “house of terrors” and molestation.
“I realized my life would have been better with my mother, even if we had lived under a rock,” she says. “I want to do whatever it takes to keep my children together. I don’t look at finances as the priority.”
Auguste began her life in the United States at age 12, when she was brought to Miami by relatives. She moved to Charlotte in 2006, when her then-husband decided he wanted to be closer to his family, which settled here.
A year later she started Three Sisters catering, in hopes it might become an empire. Instead, she has seen spurts and stalls of business as the economy has labored to right itself. The catering company gets its name from her three daughters and specializes in the Caribbean food she was raised eating.
Coincidentally, even in Haiti, they had Santa or a variation of him known as Papa Noel, she says. He often brought handmade gifts, but the best thing she ever got was a doll with no hair that she says appeared under her pillow.
“We had Christmas trees, too, made from big limbs we got from outside, and we wrapped bathroom tissue around it,” says Auguste, laughing. “When I tell my daughters such stories, they can’t believe we did stuff like that.”
The family now has a tree from Walmart, a fake one that came with the colored lights already attached, she says. Just $40 and no bathroom tissue required.
Yet another great thing about America.
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