By Amy Nicole Tangel
When it comes to helping others and having a career in public service, this year has been especially trying for many. But keeping her spirit alive this season through the eyes of Mrs. Claus has given one woman an opportunity to find her way through all the year’s challenges.
Elvira (pronounced “Elveera”) Elovaglio-Duncan, 61, has dedicated her life to serving others for more than 30 years. Living in East Islip, N.Y., with her husband and her children, who she says are all four-legged, Elvira said she came upon the idea to start entertaining people about five years ago as Mrs. Claus. She said she simply started asking people if they needed a Mrs. Claus for the holidays and finally one day, her long-time hairdresser told her to come down to her shop in East Islip to greet customers shopping in the Sonny & Dew skin care boutique in the Tresses & Colours salon.
Born and raised in Smithtown, Elvira said she grew up as a self-proclaimed thespian and loved to learn about all walks of life. She attended Suffolk County Community College and upon graduating, she continued on at Stony Brook University graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and a master’s degree in labor relations.
“It’s in my blood. That’s why I am Mrs. Claus today. I get my little theater bug,” she said.
Elvira’s late mother sewed two costumes for her; one for indoor events and a heavier lined one for cold-outdoor days. Now that her mother is gone, Elvira said the sentiment of it all is “really special.” Dressed in full costume, the trained prop master in Elvira comes through in her handmade, “Naughty and Nice,” book filled with candy canes, her festive wreath, and her one-of-a-kind shoes to match, decorated with ice cream sundaes on top.
“This pandemic has hit a lot of people very badly, and in many ways. I safeguard people; the people that want to be safeguarded,” she said.
After graduating college, Elvira went on to work in human resources and then worked in the affirmative action field for 15 years where she said she met her husband, and decided it was time to combine her dreams of working in Manhattan and helping others. Elvira then went to work for a company called, Just One Break; an organization helping disabled people find work.
“I just love to give people jobs. I see them differently than other people do. I can put that square peg in the round hole, and I think it has to do with my theater training,” she said.
Elvira’s passion for the stage generally led her to focus primarily on the behind the scenes with props and scenery, but she said she would get the acting bug from time to time and always had to fulfill that passion when it arose.
Over the years, Elvira said she dabbled with community theater in the city, but as her career of public service progressed, her stage became the job fairs she hosted under her role as a director in the field. The first time she planned an event, Elvira said she knew just how to maximize the auditorium and would have as many as a thousand people in attendance.
For Elvira, she said pandemic positives for her as a counselor have come in multiple ways. While currently working remotely for Urban League of Westchester, Inc., in Mount Vernon, N.Y., Elvira said she has turned lemons into lemonade and has made a deeper connection with those she counsels by being able to talk to them from the comfort of her home in a quieter setting. In addition to making a deeper connection with those she counsels, she said she is most fulfilled by those who truly have wanted to be helped.
Most recently, she said her proudest moment came when she was able to not only help a person receiving assistance recover financially, but also helped put that client on the road to recovery from substance abuse. Elvira said to be able to guide a person to the right path, and go from struggling to make ends meet, to getting sober is why she does what she does.
“I can take someone who thinks of themselves very low, and all-of-a-sudden show them how they can do it,” she said.
While Elvira makes the most of helping others from home, she said she lately has been keeping the spirit of Mrs. Claus alive during such a difficult time through her creativity. Not only does she make Mrs. Claus pins out of seashells which she sells, but Elvira said she loves embroidery work and has been teaching herself how to quilt to pass the time.
Although there haven’t been many opportunities to share her Christmas joy this year, Elvira said she is counting her blessings and hoping for a better new year ahead. Believing like a true Mrs. Claus, Elvira said she lives her life trying to do at least one nice thing every day and encourages others to do the same; making the world a better place.
You can visit Sonny & Dew and Tresses & Colours at their new Oakdale, N.Y., location, or shop online at www.sonnyndew.com.