Martha Heft learned to sew when she was 5. Little did she know that 94 years later she'd still be going at it.
Heft, who lives in Clearwater, Florida, was featured in a recent video by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Her sewing skills have touched the lives of many around the world, particularly orphans in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island.
In the video, 60 dresses crafted by Heft and some fellow church mates were delivered to an orphanage by her granddaughter and grandson-in-law, who serves as the Department's community outreach coordinator.
The colorful dresses, made out of donated patterned pillowcases, made their way to Regraso de Paz, an orphanage in Aguadilla, which houses children who are up to 10 years old.
Each one bore a unique note.
"Smile because we love you," one read.
"For us it's a blessing to be cared for by people that don't even know them," said Magdalena Jimenez, the center's executive director.
The official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — which stands at just 64 according to the government of the still struggling U.S. territory — has been widely regarded as a serious underestimate.
The actual toll was more likely 70 times higher or worse, according to a Harvard University study — an astonishingly higher figure that bolsters critics on and off the island who have complained about a slow and inadequate effort to chronicle losses from the Category 4 hurricane eight months ago.
Heft's crafts, including quilts and blankets, have not only been donated on that island, but have been disbursed in Haiti.
"When I was 5 years old I started to sew on a Damascus Treadle Sewing Machine, and from then on and in high school I took home economics. I thought that was he easiest way to get As," Heft said.
Heft received a certificate of appreciation from the sheriff's office.
"Did you ever picture that your 99-year-old mother would be doing this?" one officer asked Heft's daughter, Mary Ann Walker.
"I never thought she'd be 99," Walker responded.
Meanwhile, Heft says she doesn't plan on putting her sewing machine away any time soon.
"As long as God grants me life and health, I'm happy to do this. I just wish I had a little bit more speed."