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91-year-old mother and her daughter making masks for the community

Posted at 2:04 PM, Jan 14, 2021

PHOENIX — Making masks has become a family affair for one Valley family.

Patty Dilk has been working with her mom and husband to make face masks people would like to wear. She is using a family treasure, an old Singer sewing machine gifted to her decades ago by her 91-year-old mother Bessie.

Dilk tells ABC15, her business of selling jewelry and personal training came to a screeching halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not knowing how to fill her time, she realized she knew how to sew, so she dusted off the old Singer Touch & Sew machine her mother had gifted to her and got to work.

Her mother, Bessie Sweet, works as the "finisher" who snips off all of the threads from the masks that Dilk hands to her. She then irons, sanitizes and bags them.

Dilk's husband, Jerry, helps create the nose loops and ear pieces, adorned with their signature hand-selected beads that make their masks different from so many others in the market.

Sweet called it a labor of love that kept her busy in her golden years.

"If I didn't have this to do, I'd sit and twiddle my thumbs," said Sweet. The energetic 91-year-old said she made the short three-minute walk to her daughter's home to help finish the masks.

"You've heard the term pizzazz? We are firm believers in pizzazz," she laughed.

Dilk says when she first started making the masks, she was using whatever fabric she could scrounge up around the house, from cloth napkins to old clothes.

"I went through my husband's shirts and harvested from those, then friends started sending material, and then strangers started sending material," said Dilk.

Her porch swing, she calls her "swing of love," was piled up with everything from fabric, to bottles of wine, and other gifts from strangers showing appreciation, so Dilk said they just kept on churning out the masks.

She had lost count but believed they had made over 4,000 masks to date.

"Our masks are now in thirty different states. We've sent them to the U.K., to France, to Mexico, Canada. They're in hair salons, nail salons, the zoo. We even put special filters into ones we send out to hospitals for nurses," said Dilk.

"It's a labor of love. We don't sell them, we give them away," added her mother, Sweet.

The family said it was a priority for them to keep their masks free because they wanted people to actually wear them.

"If people will get them and they have a whole wardrobe of them, they will wear them and they won't complain about it. So just put them on, it is free," said Dilk.

Dilk credited her mother for teaching her how to sew.

"My husband gifted me with the $800 Singer machine about 30 years ago. I went to a night class to learn how to do machine embroidery, then I would come home and teach my daughter what I had learned. She got better at it than I did," laughed Sweet.

She enjoyed helping her daughter with the masks so much, that even a broken hand and elbow did not keep her away from contributing her bit to the mask-making process.

"I told her it's your left hand that's broken, you can still use your right hand," joked Dilk. She said her mother had all the masks snipped, sanitized, and bagged with her one good hand, by the end of the day.

The family plan to continue making the masks as long as there was a demand.

"I always carry a couple in my purse. If someone says 'Oh, I love your mask, I say here, have one,'" laughed Sweet.

If you would like to donate fabric to the Dilk family to make more masks, you can drop off your donations at All Saints Lutheran Church near 7th Street Greenway Parkway.