Joyce Treat has been a seamstress for nearly three decades and has settled into a nice routine in recent years.
She sews uniforms for a variety of dance teams, which has included outfitting the Cardinals cheerleaders since 2017.
This is usually the month the Cardinals unveil their squad, but COVID-19 delayed tryouts, which kept Treat from creating – and getting paid for -- the custom looks. Additionally, with dance studios across the country shut down, her other work came to a grinding halt.
Treat felt a sense of foreboding in early March when she realized her customer base was quickly dwindling to zero. The 61-year-old mother of two and grandmother of three thought she'd have to go on unemployment.
"I was panicking," said Treat, who works from Pie Town, New Mexico, which is about 75 miles east of the Arizona border. "My husband's retired and he's just on social security, so now I'm the main breadwinner, and it's never been that way in the 42 years we've been married."
In the early days of the pandemic, Treat scratched together income by sewing masks for a California company that one of her dance clients worked for, and it gave her another idea.
"Sitting there, I have a lot of time to think as I'm sewing repetitiously," Treat said. "So I was looking through my fabric and I thought, 'I've got a roll of Cardinals fabric that I used to make the cheerleading outfits with.' I had a big ball of that to make their stuff out of, and I still had stuff left over. I looked at that and I went, 'Angie, what do you think about making masks?'"
Cardinals cheer director Angie Baker thought it was a terrific idea, and the Cardinals ordered 200 of them to disperse to employees throughout the organization. Additionally, the Cardinals have given Treat extra outfit embroidery work even though the cheer squad has yet to be chosen.
Between the Cardinals' orders and word-of-mouth about the masks, Treat is now a busy woman. She said mask orders flowed in after she posted the first batch on Facebook. It takes her five-to-six minutes to make one and has created more than 650.
"Luckily, me being a seamstress of 28 years, I've got fabric stock out the wazoo," Treat said.
When normalcy returns to the world, Treat will return to outfitting the Cardinals and her other clients. But for now, she's found a way to not only pay her bills, but also pay it forward.
She's no longer worried about going on unemployment, and once the mask orders stop, Treat will continue to make them to donate.
"If there is a day when I'm not making for people who want, then I'll make for people who need," Treat said.
Images of Cardinals cheerleader Amanda during the 2019 season