By Erika Webb
With four children and a business that calls her to travel throughout three counties, Kari Wade of DeBary has to keep to a schedule.
For the owner of Maid in Style, a cleaning service, performing domestic chores for others pays her bills, but something else happens along the way. Ms. Wade discovers what’s going on in her clients lives and sometimes her vantage point leaves her with a heavy heart.
She started the business three years ago and over the past year, she said, her company served clients who were cancer patients. She cleaned their houses for free.
“Most people can’t always offer to donate money,” Ms. Wade said. “We found a way to donate our time and discovered what a difference it made.”
Maid in Style employs 16 people who clean throughout Volusia, Seminole and Orange counties, working in teams of three.
Seventeen of the company’s 235 clients are battling cancer, 17 too many in Ms. Wade’s opinion.
She and her fellow team members, Elizabeth Hunter of DeLand and Leandra Santos of DeBary, work extra hours to clean each of their homes once a month.
“We make it work,” she said. “It’s a priority.”
That kind of prioritizing made all the difference to Dina Benjamin of Edgewater.
Ms. Benjamin underwent six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer. As is the norm, she was sick, exhausted and certainly not up to cleaning.
A friend told her about Maid in Style.
“They were incredible, so willing to come and help when I really needed it,” Ms. Benjamin said.
Though the group offered to come weekly, Ms. Benjamin said she only needed help every other week during that time.
Aside from the practical aid, Maid in Style offered emotional support of indeterminate value.
“It was almost like a friendship,” Ms. Benjamin said. “They’re incredible … wonderful, wonderful, wonderful women.”
While her treatments have come to an end — for now she said — she’s still going through testing and is unsure where the path ahead will lead.
Ms. Wade, Ms. Santos and Ms. Hunter want Ms. Benjamin to know they’re only a phone call away.
“They’ve been in touch to see if I still needed help or needed anything around the house,” Ms. Benjamin said.
Two months ago Ms. Wade was in Walmart looking at cleaning products when something on the side of a bottle caught her eye.
“It said ‘If you own a cleaning company . . .,” she said.
That’s how she found Cleaning for a Reason, a way to connect with more people in need.
The nonprofit organization serves the entire United States and Canada.
Its website states, “We partner with maid services to offer professional house cleanings to help women undergoing treatment for cancer, any type of cancer. To date, we have provided more than 17,000 cleanings for women with cancer with a value of more than $4 million in donated cleanings, and partnered with over 1,000 maid services. Every day, we recruit new maid service partners with the heart and soul to donate house cleanings for local women with cancer in their hour of need.”
News of the foundation has spread and was introduced in 2009 on WFAA Channel 8 in Dallas, Texas, by none other than Oprah Winfrey.
“The need for the service is so great,” Ms. Winfrey said.
Ms. Wade and her “partners in grime” have agreed to help women battling cancer by cleaning two homes per month for four consecutive months at no charge. The only requirement is the homes be within the company’s existing service area of Volusia, Orange, and Seminole counties.
“We were attracted to the foundation immediately when we realized the amount of good that our time and services could do for our local community,” Ms. Wade explained in a news release. “Cleaning For A Reason is a company we feel deserves all the support our company and community can offer.”
“The best part about (the project) is letting my kids see it,” Ms. Wade said. “I think the best thing we can do as a parent is to show kids these little life lessons and things we’re supposed to do in life, rather than just tell them to be a good person.”
One day while cleaning a home in DeLand, two young girls wearing bandanas brought Ms. Wade’s crewmembers to tears. The girls had shaved their heads in support of their sister, who is battling the disease.
“Especially for the people that work for us, this has opened our eyes to what you can do in your community,” Ms. Wade said. “You start to see it’s the little things that you’re already doing that can make a difference. We can do way more than we think we can for members of our direct community.”
For more information, visit MaidInStyle.com or cleaningforareason.org.