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CCU Atheneum: Kristen Toben is a financial whiz who loves to be creative.
Kristen Toben is a financial whiz who loves to be creative.

CCU’s director of payroll counts beads, not beans

by Mona Prufer
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With a statistician for a father and a mother who was an accounting clerk, Kristen Toben feels she is fulfilling her familial destiny by working with numbers.

Coastal Carolina University’s director of payroll since April, she majored in accounting at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., and minored in music, one of her passions. (She plays clarinet, percussion and piano.)

Following graduation, she held the position of public accounting auditor for three years at Arnett & Foster, one of the largest CPA firms in West Virginia ,and then became director of accounting for six years at the University of Charleston in West Virginia.

But even before college, she discovered another passion – jewelry making. It all began with a suggestion from her dad, who mentioned that the women where he worked were making their own jewelry and why didn’t Kristen and her mom try it?

“I had just graduated high school, and I loved jewelry that matched my outfit, but it was so expensive!”

So she and her mom, Linda Toben, taught themselves to make beaded jewelry by watching YouTube videos online and trying to match pieces they found in stores and craft fairs. They found they had a gift for it, and Toben is now bringing bags of necklaces, earrings and bracelets around when anyone needs a Christmas or birthday gift – or just something new and colorful to match their outfit. The pieces are inexpensive – usually $5 to $10 – and one-of-a-kind.

CCU Controller Lori Church was sporting some of Toben’s designs recently, as were other women in the Office of Financial Services.

Known as Mother-Daughter Jewelry, Kristen and her mom traveled to area craft fairs in West Virginia, and they plan to do the same here in South Carolina. At their home, they have an entire room dedicated to beads and the creation of new pieces.

“It’s a very good creative outlet and a good bonding experience for me and my mother,” says Toben. “It’s also very therapeutic and relaxing for me.”

But Toben isn’t the only one into “bead therapy” at Coastal Carolina. There’s also Kelli Barker, director of operations at the Myrtle Beach Education Center, long known for sending friends and colleagues beaded surprises in interoffice envelopes.

And there’s Tammy Kelly, data coordinator in the Office of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity, who for eight years has been making different kinds of beaded pieces – Bible bookmarks, pacifier holders, boot straps – that she sells at her aunt’s booth at an antique store. Paula Gorrera, data entry coordinator, who sits adjacent to Kelly, frequently wears necklaces from Toben's Mother-Daughter Jewelry.

Tiffany Kovacs, classification and compensation manager, made her jewelry for her own wedding. She was also quite a display case at the department's holiday party with her handmade headpiece, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and bejeweled attire. She even won the prize for the ugliest Christmas sweater – “and there wasn’t even a contest!”

Says Kovacs: “I normally do beading when I need something to go with a particular outfit that I can’t find in a store. Also, it is actually very relaxing.”


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