99-year-old woman puts her sewing skills to use making 60 dresses for orphanage

July 2, 2018 5:10 pm Last Updated: July 2, 2018 5:10 pm

Martha Heft has been sewing since she was 5 years old. The Clearwater, Florida, resident is now 99 and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

In fact, 94 years after learning the useful skill, she found a new way to put it to use and help others in need. Alongside members of her church, the resourceful nonagenarian is doing her part to make the world a better place.

Heft started sewing at 5 years old and took home economics in high school.

(PBSO – Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office/ Screenshot)

Heft has been at the pedal of a sewing machine for as long as she can remember. But she never intended to be a professional seamstress, and admits to having taken a home economics course in high school for practical reasons.

“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 [sic] easiest way to get As [sic],” Heft said to the Miami Herald.

She only further honed her skills in the succeeding years and is a member of a quilting group at her local Methodist church. The group started out making blankets and quilts but soon thought of a way to put their talents to a greater purpose.

After seeing the devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, the group felt called to help them any way they could. They redirected their efforts, repurposing donated materials to a greater cause.

Heft and the group began making dresses crafted out of pillowcases to donate to Puerto Rico.

(PBSO – Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office/ Screenshot)


The sewing group has now crafted and donated over 60 dresses to the orphanage, each pinned with a personalized note that lets the girls know they are loved and valued. “Smile because we love you,” one of the notes read.

The dresses were hand-delivered to the orphanage in March by Heft’s granddaughter, Tara Roman and her husband, Sam Roman of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

The dresses come in a variety of different sizes and patterns and were delivered to orphaned girls living at Regraso de Paz in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The girls vary in age up to 10 years old.

“For us, it’s a blessing to feel care for our kids,” orphanage director Magdalena Jimenez said to Inside Edition.

“People don’t even know them, and for us to receive those dresses, the dresses that a 99-year-old beautiful lady made for them, it’s a blessing.”

Heft said that she has no intention of slowing down, and she’ll keep sewing as long as she’s able.

(PBSO – Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office/ Screenshot)

Heft was recently the recipient of a certificate of appreciation from the sheriff’s office. One officer asked Heft’s daughter, Mary Ann Walker, if she ever pictured her 99-year-old mother making 60 dresses to donate to kids in need.

“I never thought she’d be 99,” Walker said.

But Heft is proving that age is only a number, and she doesn’t have any plans of slowing down her pillowcase dress output. When asked how much longer she intends to stay behind the sewing machine, her response was casual and heartwarming.

“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,” she said.