Written By: Mary Beth Schweigert writes for the Lifestyle section of Lancaster PA Newspapers.
He’s taken on a long list of other duties since July, when his wife Meleney was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.
After work, Martin, of Manheim Township, cares for his wife and 9-year-old son, Alec, pays bills, cooks, cleans, runs errands, walks the dog and makes phone calls and household repairs.
“It is next to impossible to keep up with everything,” he says.
Martin’s to-do list got a little shorter when a neighbor told the family about Cleaning for a Reason, a nonprofit that offers free housecleaning services to women during cancer treatment.
“It was amazing to come home the evening MaidPro cleaned,” Martin says. “We are not take-your-shoes-off people, but I did that night.”
Debbie Sardone, owner of Buckets & Bows Maid Service, Lewisville, Texas, started Cleaning for a Reason in 2006. After talking with a female patient who could not afford a housecleaning, she decided to offer free service to any woman being treated for cancer.
Cleaning for a Reason now partners with more than 1,000 companies in the United States and Canada, including three in Lancaster County. Partners have donated more than 17,000 cleanings worth more than $4 million.
Nichole Kambesis, who owns MaidPro franchises in Lancaster and Hershey, says a cancer diagnosis is exhausting and expensive for a family. Cleaning the house usually drops to the bottom of the priority list.
“We just absolutely love (Cleaning for a Reason),” Kambesis says. “On a personal note, my mother fought for seven years with (breast) cancer and died at the very young age of 49.”
Cleaning for a Reason partners serve two patients at a time, donating one housecleaning for four consecutive months.
MaidPro has cleaned for a handful of county patients in the past year. The standard cleaning takes about four hours. (“We can get a lot done in four hours,” Kambesis says.).
Garmans’ Cleaning, Manheim, became a Cleaning for a Reason partner two years ago, after owners Donna and Andrew Garman saw Sardone speak at an industry meeting.
“I just think everyone’s affected by cancer in some way,” says Donna Garman, whose mother had breast cancer. “When this came about, I thought, ‘What a great way to give back and help these women.’ ”
Cleaningforareason.org also lists Maid Brigade Lancaster County, Ephrata, as a local partner. Cleaning services must be insured and/or bonded, and perform background checks on nonfamily employees.
Patients who want to apply for services should contact Cleaning for a Reason directly through its website. Women must be 19 or older, with a doctor-verified cancer diagnosis.
“We’ve developed friendships with (patients),” says Garman, whose company has cleaned for five Cleaning for a Reason clients. “We kind of get to know them and … their families.”
MaidPro’s staff enjoys doing the free cleanings, Kambesis says, and families are always very grateful. Cleaners often celebrate Cleaning for a Reason clients’ cancer-free milestones, and mourn their setbacks.
“We’re part of their cancer-fighting team,” Kambesis says. “It just feels really, really good.”
Having a clean, organized home makes the Martins’ lives a little easier. It also protects Mrs. Martin, who is more vulnerable to illness during treatment.
“We try to enjoy the time we have,” Alan Martin says. “We cannot change the cancer, only deal with it.”
Martin is amazed by the kindness friends, neighbors and strangers have shown to his sweet-natured wife and their whole family.
That includes Cleaning for a Reason — and also the company that charged nothing for an emergency sewer repair and the neurologist who spent three hours on the phone with their insurance company.
Martin can’t wait to pay it forward.