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Everyday Heroes: Cleaning for a Reason

(Stock Photo)

A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, turning a person’s world upside-down.

The chemotherapy, the missed work -- it can feel like life is unraveling right in front of you.

This week’s Everyday Heroes help alleviate at least one stressful aspect of life for women fighting cancer; they clean their homes.

Cleaning for a Reason” is a nonprofit started in 2006 by Debbie Sardone. Sardone owns a Texas-based maid service and had an epiphany after a woman called to ask about home cleaning prices, but then hung up after saying she couldn’t afford the price, because she was fighting cancer and couldn’t work.

Sardone decided she could do something meaningful.

“Cleaning for a Reason helps any woman battling any type of cancer at all,” says Sardone. “All she has to do is apply online, ask for help, and we will match her with a residential cleaning company in her area.”

1,200 different cleaning companies nationwide, and in Canada, are part of Cleaning for a Reason’s network. That includes several in the Portland-Vancouver area.

Peggy Thatcher-Aguilu owns one of them.

“The house cleanliness, you don’t really think about it, per se, but it’s a big deal in how you feel,” says Thatcher-Aguilu, President of Bridge City Cleaning Service. “If your house is clean, you’re going to feel better.”

Bridge City Cleaning Services joined Cleaning for a Reason a few months ago. They’ve already helped several women battling cancer.

“With chemotherapy, it’s a challenge, it’s an emotional and physical devastation, and having a dirty house on top of it is just one more thing for them to have to deal with,” Thatcher-Aguilu says.

The impact isn’t just felt by the cancer patients who get the service. The cleaners themselves come away with a sense of satisfaction beyond the regular pride of a good day’s work.

“We try to have a real dialogue about it (with our employees),” says Thatcher-Aguilu. “There is a sense of accomplishment when the cleaners go to the house and people are so grateful we’re there.”

Sardone agrees.

“Employees of cleaning companies that are part of Cleaning for a Reason have literally come in and hugged the owner and said, ‘I’m so grateful I got to be part of helping this woman today’,” says Sardone. “It gives the employees an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

The cleaners are paid like any other job. It’s the company that donates the service.

“The gift is coming from the cleaning company,” says Sardone, “but the employee’s life is so enriched by being part of giving back.”

In 11 years, Cleaning for a Reason has helped more than 27,000 women. They want to help more, and may have the opportunity to do so soon, since the nonprofit just merged with ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association. Sardone thinks that may help them double -- or even triple -- the number of women they’ve helped over the next few years.

“We need more maid services to be aware of our program,” she says. “Most of them don’t even know we exist, and we need more maid services to join our program and donate some free cleanings.”

It’s simple for cancer sufferers or their families and friends to apply for a cleaning. There’s an application on the Cleaning for a Reason website. All they ask is for a doctor’s note showing they’re receiving treatment for cancer.

“Women have literally told us ‘I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to come home from chemotherapy to a clean house,’” says Sardone. “She said, 'I felt normal again. I felt like I had a little bit of control back in my life when everything else was spinning out of control.’”

Thatcher-Aguilu feels that appreciation, too. Consider her company’s unofficial motto:

“It used to be, ‘We Save Marriages’,” she laughs. Now it’s more.

“You really help somebody move on with their life, move on with their healing,” she says.

And she says Cleaning for a Reason fits perfectly with her own personal drive to give back.

“It feels good to be part of the bigger community.”

To nominate a cancer patient for cleanings, click here.

To donate to Cleaning for a Reason, click here.

Maid services who want to join Cleaning for a Reason, click here.

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