Story by Amanda Furmage-Deck of Focus Magazine
Lakeland resident Heather Russo enjoys long distance running (She’ll be running her first half-marathon soon!) and watching her 13-year-old son excel on the baseball diamond, two interests many people can relate to quite easily. However, unlike most individuals, Russo has a passion for cleaning. In fact, Russo’s zeal for mopping floors, sanitizing countertops, and dusting furniture inspired her to start her own business in August 2012—the Lakeland Cleaning Co.
“As crazy as it sounds, I really enjoy cleaning, and through the love and support of my family, I decided to start my own business,” said Russo. “I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes after cleaning a home and I love when a homeowner doesn’t have to worry about cleaning.”
When not performing her full-time duties as manager of the Florida Turfgrass Association and volunteering for kidsPACK Polk Project packing and delivering food to local schools, Russo is busy cleaning for families in Lakeland, Davenport, Winter Haven, Bartow, Mulberry, Haines City, and surrounding Polk County communities on a weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly basis depending on customer preference. In addition to regular services which include dusting furniture, lampshades, and ceiling fans; cleaning light fixtures, mirrors, cabinet facings, and kitchen appliance exteriors; sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming floors; making beds and changing linens; and sanitizing countertops, sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilets, the Lakeland Cleaning Co., a licensed and bonded business, also offers deep cleaning services for move-ins, move-outs, and newly constructed homes. Because of Russo’s dependability, quality service, and customer word-of-mouth, the Lakeland Cleaning Co. has grown so quickly since its inception that she’s had to hire two part-time employees to keep up with the demand.
With her business rapidly becoming a success, Russo decided to provide a new type of service that would truly make a difference in her clients’ lives. In December 2012, Russo joined Cleaning for a Reason, a national nonprofit organization formed in 2006 dedicated to helping female cancer patients 19 years and older. Through her Cleaning for a Reason partnership, Russo can provide free professional cleaning services for women undergoing any kind of cancer therapy, those who are too tired or in too much pain from extensive treatments to perform the simple task of cleaning.
“I just wanted to give back, knowing I can help a woman battling the worst disease out there can instead focus on her health and spend more time with her family,” said Russo. “These women shouldn’t have to stress about things like cleaning their homes. I want them to have a better quality life for the limited time they have.”
When cleaning a home, the Lakeland Cleaning Co. only uses all-natural products from Aromatherapy Naturals. Unlike commercial cleaners that contain toxic chemicals like ammonia, phosphates, peroxide, and formaldehyde, Aromatherapy Naturals products combine a powerful natural disinfectant (pure grain alcohol) with refreshing essential oils (spearmint, eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender, orange, basil, lemon, lime, rosemary, lemongrass, tea tree, cinnamon, and clove bud). Not only are the all-natural products safe for cancer patients, but they are also the perfect solution for individuals suffering from allergies and asthma. In other words, you won’t discover the lung-inflaming chemicals found in Scrubbing Bubbles Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner or the blood cell-damaging solvents mixed in Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner within the organic products used by Russo’s Lakeland Cleaning Co.
“I only use Aromatherapy Naturals products and my clients love them,” said Russo. “And the fragrance is great; no harsh chemical smells like those that come with commercial cleaners, which is perfect for cancer patients.”
To date, Cleaning for a Reason has assisted more than 12,000 women with cancer and has donated over $3.2 million in cleaning services through its 1,000 partners in the United States and Canada. It’s apparent Cleaning for a Reason truly has lived up to its motto, giving women battling cancer “one less thing to worry about.” However, Russo is still searching for her first Cleaning for a Reason client.
“We’re the only maid service in Polk County associated with Cleaning for a Reason and I’m trying to get the word out that we’re willing to help,” said Russo. “It’s so important for me to give back to my community.”
To receive free services from Russo, female cancer patients must sign up at the Cleaning for a Reason website. By filling out an online application and providing an official doctor’s note, the organization will then match up clients with the nearest partnering maid service. If an applicant lives within 20 miles of the Lakeland Cleaning Company, Russo will provide one thorough cleaning per month for four consecutive months to two patients at a time. Once Russo completes a four-month commitment, Cleaning for a Reason will recommend a new client for her company to assist.
According to the National Cancer Institute, over 6.5 million women suffered from cancer in 2009, and the numbers are on the rise. In fact, almost 1 million women are diagnosed with cancer of all types each year, whether breast, cervical, lung, etc.
In order to relieve cancer symptoms or destroy cancer cells, patients may undergo intense chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy treatments where their bodies are introduced to potent drugs and/or high energy rays, and depending on the severity of the cancer, these treatments can be repeated many times and can last for weeks. Some common side effects of these treatments include fatigue, nausea, pain, vomiting, digestive problems, infection, and blood clotting.
Although some patients may only experience mild reactions to cancer therapy, the last thing on their to-do lists should be cleaning their home. If you have a loved one in your family suffering from cancer and living in the Lakeland area, give her “one less thing to worry about.” Fill out a Cleaning for a Reason application and let Heather Russo take care of the dust, dirt and grime around the house while your loved one takes care of herself.