Mundelein sisters helping others with mask-decorating business
Two young Mundelein sisters have turned an artistic activity designed to beat the tedium of their COVID-19 quarantine into a business that ultimately helps people in need.
Ten-year-old Jaina Bartusch and her 11-year-old sister, Olivia, are the brains and brawn behind 2 Little Mask Makers. Using a Cricut crafting machine, the girls decorate and sell fabric protective masks adorned with iron-on designs.
Since launching the enterprise in August, they've decorated and sold more than 280 masks, donated $300 to the food bank and purchased $455 worth of supplies for the school district.
"It feels like I'm helping a lot of people," said Jaina, a fifth-grader at Mechanics Grove Elementary School in Mundelein. "It feels good to give things to people who need them."
Jaina and Olivia started decorating masks this summer after their mother, Amy Bartusch, received the crafting machine as a birthday gift. The girls wanted to see what they could do with it.
"We were bored and had nothing else to do," Jaina recalled.
Jaina and Olivia first decorated some masks for an aunt who received so many compliments that she suggested the sisters start selling them.
The girls buy masks at retail stores and then decorate them with images of dogs, cats, flowers, superhero emblems, athletic logos, stars and many other designs. They've added phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Cat person" to some and people's initials to others.
The ones with initials and images are Olivia's favorites because they're so personalized.
"It's fun to do," said Olivia, a sixth-grader at Mundelein's Carl Sandburg Middle School.
The sisters came up with the idea of donating profits to the food bank. As for the school district, they've donated 15 backpacks, including five stuffed with supplies.
Amy Bartusch and her husband, Jeremy, are understandably proud of their daughters' ingenuity, work and philanthropy.
"We are always trying to teach the girls about giving back to the community and to those less fortunate," Amy Bartusch said. "When they came to us and said 'We want to donate the profits,' I was very touched."
Mechanics Grove Principal Tanya Fergus called the girls "true leaders."
"Our student-created school mission statement is 'Inspiring kind leaders; preparing for bright futures,'" Fergus said. "Jaina and Olivia have a very bright future ahead of them."
The masks cost $5 each, plus shipping if needed. Of that price, $2 is donated to one of the two benefiting organizations.
Although the business is fun, Jaina admitted it can be challenging.
"Our biggest order was 14 masks, and it was kind of stressful," she said.
Olivia said the operation was especially nice to run while the family was holed up this summer because of the pandemic. Now that school has started, their classwork is a priority, she said -- but they're continuing to take orders.
Maeven Sipes, vice president of philanthropy for the Geneva-based food bank, said the sisters' donation "exemplifies the good we can all do when we come together to address issues impacting our community. Northern Illinois Food Bank is fortunate to have so many compassionate donors in the communities we serve."