From the time Melizabeth Santos was a little girl, she's been surrounded by the hum of a sewing machine. And that's still the case to this day.
"Since I was about 5 years old, my grandmother and my mother gave me sewing lessons and taught me how to make pajamas and doll clothes and things like that, and then it just turned into something I really enjoy doing in my spare time," Santos said.
There's something else Santos likes doing in her spare time: watching soccer - especially the World Cup - with her family.
"Every four years, we’re glued to the television," said the mother of two. "We watch the World Cup. It’s really the only sport that we do follow."
So imagine the Irving Park resident's excitement when she got a recent message from the Chicago-based U.S. Soccer Federation asking for her help. The Federation has a surplus of old jerseys worn by Team USA players, and it wanted to partner with a local person to turn them into masks for frontline workers. Santos didn't hesitate to say yes.
"When the US Soccer Federation called me, I was surprised," said Santos. "I was really excited, because it’s another way to contribute, and also because my family, definitely, we’re soccer fans."
Santos recently started making the masks one-by-one inside her house. The Federation says she'll make 500 of them, and some will even go to frontline workers who were once Team USA players.
"Some of these are 20 years old, so some of the names I don’t necessarily recognize, but I do know, and I’m very respectful of the fact that some very big names have worn them, and I’m trying to represent that as I’m cutting them apart, respectfully, to make them into masks," said Santos.
A lot of work lies ahead, but Santos is happy to do it and support all the brave men and women risking their lives on a daily basis.
"I’m so grateful for the fact that they are putting their own lives at risk, putting their families at risk, and I’m very honored that I can do something give back a little bit to that."
For those interested in obtaining one of the unique masks, the U.S. Soccer Federation asks you to email firstname.lastname@example.org.