According to the latest reports, the 2018 hurricane season is expected to be a pretty rough one in the U.S., and it’s only just begun. Considering how devastating Hurricanes Harvey and Maria were last year, many Americans are bracing for the worst, but hoping for the best. And others, like Martha Heft of Clearwater, Florida, are making sure they haven’t forgotten about those who are still struggling in the wake of last year’s devastation.
Heft has been busily sewing dresses for girls who were orphaned in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017. Her kind efforts are now making headlines for a few reasons, but perhaps most of all for this one: Heft is 99 years old — as in, nearly a century old.
That hasn’t slowed her down, though.
The Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office recently featured the nonagenarian in a video after the department delivered more than 60 dresses that were hand sewn by Heft and some of her church pals out of brightly colored pillowcases. Each one had been donated to the church before the women worked their magic.
According to the Miami Herald, the orphaned girls who are receiving the dresses live at the Regraso de Paz orphanage in Aguadilla, which cares for kids up until the age of 10. Each handcrafted dress will include a note with messages of hope from the women at Heft’s church. One such note reportedly reads, “smile because we love you.”
The executive director of the orphanage, Magdalena Jimenez, told the Miami Herald, “For us, it’s a blessing to be cared for by people that don’t even know them.”
Puerto Rico’s official death toll is listed as 64, although recent news reports have shown that the real number may be as high as 4,000 or more. The devastation of the 2017 hurricane was felt far and wide as the infrastructure took a massive hit to its power grid, food supply, and medical supplies. Now, with the 2018 hurricane season just beginning, many people are left wondering just how much more the island can take, which is precisely what makes the generosity of strangers like Heft and her fellow church members mean so much.
“When I was 5 years old I started to sew on a Damascus Treadle Sewing Machine,” Heft told the Miami Herald, “and from then on and in high school I took home economics. I thought that was the easiest way to get A’s.”
Heft was given a certificate of appreciation by the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office. A member of the sheriff’s office asked Heft’s daughter, Mary Ann Walker, if she ever thought she’d see her 99-year-old mother sewing 60 dresses as a goodwill gesture. Walker responded by saying, “I never thought she’d be 99!”
Heft told the Miami Herald that she’s not done quite yet, though.
“As long as God grants me life and health, I’m happy to do this,” Heft said, adding “I just wish I had a little bit more speed.”
Congrats to Martha Heft for all her hard work (and kind heart!).