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Volume 15, Issue 30 ~ July 26 - August 1, 2007

Cleaning for a Cause

Local company cleans house for women with cancer

by Carrie Madren, Bay Weekly Staff Writer

For a woman battling cancer, there’s little energy left over for the everyday chores of cooking, laundry or housecleaning. For people with compromised immune systems, cleaning creates a unique worry.

“They pretty much tell you that you can’t use cleaning agents [because of the chemicals], but you need to be in a clean environment,” said Maria Turner of Harwood, who’s been battling Hodgkins disease, a cancer of the lymphatic tissue, for over three years. “So you feel like you have to rely on someone you know or hire someone.”

When a person’s already paying for pricey treatments, medicines and more, hired cleaning may break the bank.

“Everything gets expensive, and you have to cut back somewhere,” Turner said. So cleaning often falls by the wayside.

Easing that burden in Annapolis is a local cleaning service, Spouses Cleaning Houses, owned by Ed and Rebecca Wright.

The Wrights pledged to offer women with cancer three free cleanings, plus three discounted cleanings, after the couple joined the Texas-based non-profit Cleaning for a Reason.

The duo had been seeking a way to give back to community when Ed Wright met Deborah Sardone, founder of Cleaning for a Reason.

“I had lost a long-time customer to cancer,” said Wright, who prayed for his client and grieved when she died. So helping cancer patients — regardless of financial need — is close to his heart.

“There’s a need out there,” Wright said. “Anne Arundel County is supposed to be among the top three in the state for cancer.”

Beyond lacking energy, Wright agreed that people fighting cancer need to limit lifting and avoid harsh chemicals like ammonia and bleach.

“It gives me peace of mind to know that all the light switches and door-knobs are wiped down,” said Turner about common spots where bacteria lurk. “You’re susceptible to lot of infections, and if you get an infection, it could stop your treatments until it clears up.”

Wright joined the Cleaning for a Reason ranks in April.

Turner, 33, is Wright’s first client to receive Cleaning for a Reason free and discount services. Three children at home, she said, are too young to help with chores but make most of the mess. So even with the help of her sister, Gina Costa, who visits daily, cleaning was one more worry.

Angel with a Swiffer

The sisters didn’t know about Cleaning for a Reason when they called Wright for an estimate. And Wright didn’t know he’d be booking his first cancer cleaning case.

“I went in a week or two after I’d committed to do Cleaning for a Reason,” Wright recalls. “I could see that she wasn’t moving too swiftly. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.”

Wright gently asked if she was dealing with an illness.

“She couldn’t believe that I offered a free service,” Wright said.

Spouses Cleaning Houses isn’t alone. Nationwide, some 116 cleaning businesses in 29 states have committed to offer cleaning services to women with cancer. Each patient must apply and send a doctor’s validation to “make sure we are truly cleaning for people with cancer,” said Cleaning for a Reason’s founder, Sardone.

The partner nearest to the patient then arranges three free cleanings and three cleanings discounted 45 percent.

For Sardone, who owns Buckets & Bows Maid Service in Lewisville, Texas, charity began at home. “We had one employee who was battling cancer, and I saw how physically she couldn’t work and how it devastated her income,” she said. “Another employee lost her child to cancer.” Sardone’s mother is also a cancer survivor.

When she introduced her company’s benevolent practice to a group of fellow cleaning service owners, they encouraged her to expand the idea.

Since Sardone started her non-profit last year, cleaning companies across the country have helped a total of 56 patients, offering some 300 benevolent cleanings.

Her non-profit cleans for women with cancer, she said, because “we deal with women in this industry every day. Most of the employees and customers are women.”

She asks each company that joins her to take on two or three patients at a time. “We don’t pressure the businesses to take on more than they can afford,” Sardone said. “That’s their livelihood.”

In New York, there’s currently a waiting list of patients who need house cleaning, but not in Maryland, where six businesses have signed on to do charitable cleanings. Spouses Cleaning Houses is the only Cleaning for a Reason chapter in Annapolis so far, but Sardone hopes to recruit more help.

“I’ll do as many [cleanings for cancer patients] as my schedule allows,” said Wright, who began the business with wife Rebecca in 1995 and now employs a couple dozen staffers. Rebecca Wright also volunteers her cleaning services to a friend debilitated by multiple sclerosis.

He encourages his staff to take on volunteer cases on their own time, so the outreach to people in need can stretch farther.

His own company and staff can never stretch as far as the need.

“Based on the stats, there are a lot of people here dealing with cancer,” Wright said. “At some point, we’ll have to turn people down.”

But those cancer patients won’t have to get turned down if more local companies climb on board.

“We need to let other maid-service owners know about this need,” said Sardone, “and we need those owners to step forward.”

Seek or give help: Cleaning for a Reason: 877-337-3348;

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