Mundelein sisters helping others with mask-decorating business

  • Mundelein sisters Jaina, 10, and Olivia Bartusch, 11, decorate face masks and donate their profits to help people in need.

      Mundelein sisters Jaina, 10, and Olivia Bartusch, 11, decorate face masks and donate their profits to help people in need. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/8/2020 7:36 AM

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.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Olivia Bartusch works on a computerized design while her sister, Jaina, waits to print the design into a patch that'll be ironed onto a mask.
  Olivia Bartusch works on a computerized design while her sister, Jaina, waits to print the design into a patch that'll be ironed onto a mask. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

They've donated all money after expenses to the Northern Illinois Food Bank or bought backpacks and other school supplies that are, in turn, given to needy Mundelein Elementary District 75 students.

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."

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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.

Sisters Jaina, 10, and Olivia Bartusch, 11, are decorating and selling face masks.
  Sisters Jaina, 10, and Olivia Bartusch, 11, are decorating and selling face masks. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

"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.

Sisters Jaina and Olivia Bartusch decorate and sell face masks from their Mundelein home. Profits go to help people in need through two suburban organizations.
  Sisters Jaina and Olivia Bartusch decorate and sell face masks from their Mundelein home. Profits go to help people in need through two suburban organizations. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

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."

Jaina and Olivia advertise and sell their products on social media, with help from their parents. Their pages can be found at facebook.com/2MaskMakers and at instagram.com/2_little_mask_makers.

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."

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