In 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The destruction that followed meant that people lost access to power, water, food, and medical supplies. Sources of livelihood were destroyed and hundreds of lives were lost. People continue to endure hardship and cope with the loss of income, property, services, and loved ones. Fortunately, support from both government and private volunteers have poured in to help those in need.
Martha Heft of Clearwater, Florida, is among those who generously shared time and resources with the people of Puerto Rico. She sought to bring some measure of relief, and particularly hoped to bring light to the lives of the younger victims. After the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, Martha kept herself busy sewing dresses for girls who lost their parents.
Hers is one of a thousand helping hands, so what makes her story so special? It’s because Martha is 99 years old!
And it doesn’t show at all! Though nearing the century mark, Martha, along with friends at the Heritage United Methodist Church, created 60 dresses from brightly colored pillowcases. The pillowcases had been donated to the church before they were transformed into cheerful delicate outfits. These were then turned over to the Regraso de Paz orphanage in Aguadilla, which cares for children up until the age of 10.
Martha learned to sew at a very young age. “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 the easiest way to get A’s.” She soon developed a passion for sewing, saying “It’s a joy, an accomplishment and a pleasure.”
Martha later honed her sewing skills with a quilting group. Over time, Martha and the group created 670 quilts that were donated to local non-profit organizations. In 2010, they put their talent to good use by helping victims of the massive earthquake that hit Haiti. Together they made dozens of dresses and blankets that were given to underprivileged girls in the city.
The beautiful handmade dresses were delivered to the orphanage in Puerto Rico by Martha’s granddaughter, Tara Roman, and her husband, Sam Roman of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Each dress had an uplifting note for the recipient, which read, “Smile because we love you.”
According to Magdalena Jimenez, executive director of the orphanage, “They were beautiful, each one had its own special touch.” She was extremely grateful for the generous gift. “We need people with the heart this lady has. People don’t even know them [the girls], and for us to receive those dresses, the dresses that a 99-year-old beautiful lady made for them, it’s a blessing.”
Martha received a certificate of appreciation from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for her gesture of goodwill. The certificate stated “You have truly made a difference in the lives of many children.”
But she’s ready to do more! “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.”
Martha is certainly a family treasure! Watch the heartwarming video made by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office below: