The sound of sewing machines fills the kitchen inside Jennifer Tracy’s home in San Clemente.

"We got a lot of orders for purple, people requesting purple," Tracy said.

She helps take care of a group of young men with autism, who work hard at handcrafting aprons.

What You Need To Know

  • April is Autism Awareness Month

  • A group of young men with autism started an online business during the pandemic making handcrafted aprons

  • Many people with special needs lost their jobs or could no longer attend transitional work programs due to the lockdowns

  • $5 from every apron purchased this month goes to support a surf camp in Mexico for children with autism

Juan Garcia and Paul Baker handle most of the sewing, while Jonathan Guinn helps Garcia with the fabric, and Isaiah Paskowitz addresses the envelopes.

"Did I ever think these three would be over here sewing? No, but they love it. They enjoy it. They get to be with each other," Tracy said.

Her idea was born out of the pandemic as way to help keep them busy and focused, but she didn’t know anything about sewing, so she got some help from her friend, Kay Loperleddy.

"The panicked-ness of them has calmed down and they focus all their energy into a production of something," Loperleddy said.

She taught them how to use the machines and some basic concepts when making the aprons. One lesson was how to space out the patterns to make the aprons look more pleasing to the eye.

Tracy started a website in 2019 called Zuggy Etc, where the boys sold mugs and T-shirts. She feels people in the special needs community deserve to have something of their own to work towards and develop.

"Why can’t they have a business? Why can’t they get a paycheck? Why can’t they buy whatever they want to buy? Tracy said.

While she admits she had doubts at about adding aprons to the mix, they quickly subsided when the group sold five aprons in the first three hours.

Since September, the boys have sold more than 280 aprons and each delivery is now packaged with a thank you note.

"A lot of people just want to support autism. They love the work the kids are doing," Tracy said.

And she said it’s given parents hope that their special needs child can do whatever they want to achieve.

"I’m very grateful and everyone loves our work so much!" said Paul Baker.

The group has received positive responses from across the country and internationally on social media, including one woman in Mexico who was moved to tears when she received her apron.

People have also called to donate materials and supplies, but Tracy is most proud to work with such a caring group of men who have learned teamwork, friendship, and skills that will serve them at work and in life.

"They’re happy, and that’s the most important thing to me, and they’re accomplishing things, and they’re working hard together," she said.

Truly reaping the benefits of what they’ve sewn.