Cleaners help cancer patients focus on health

Published on Thursday, 18 July 2013 11:45 - Written by

BARB BERGGOETZ, The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Carolyn Neal's priorities have changed. Instead of worrying about everyday duties such as cleaning her home, Neal wants to spend time with her family and friends.

Neal has a rare type of liver cancer, and doctors say she has up to about a year to live. Going through her treatments are exhausting and time consuming.

But now she is getting help. On a recent Monday, Home Cleaning Centers of America cleaned Neal's Irvington home for free. The Indianapolis cleaning company is the latest local service to join a national effort, called Cleaning For A Reason.

"It's a great service that they are willing to do," Neal, 55, told The Indianapolis Star, "I have terminal cancer, so my time is limited. Any time that I'm not sick and can visit with family and friends, I'd prefer to do that rather than clean house. Any time that I have, that's the best way to spend it."

About two weeks ago, brothers Ken and Dean Leffel, co-owners of the independently owned franchise Home Cleaning Centers, 5146 E. 65th St., decided to join the initiative.

"My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease," said Dean Leffel. "I wanted to do something to help women and give something back."

Throughout Indiana, 18 cleaning services have signed up as partners with Cleaning For A Reason. Others in the area are: Archer Cleaning Services, Indianapolis; Housekeeping Maid Easy and A1 Quality Cleaning Service, Inc., both of Fishers, and The Maids, Noblesville.

Since Cleaning For A Reason was created by founder Debbie Sardone in 2006, the Lewisville, Texas-based organization has recruited 1,011 cleaning services nationwide to participate. Those services have performed 13,876 cleanings, donating more than $3.5 million in work.

Women interested in getting their homes cleaned need to apply through the Cleaning For A Reason's website . Then they go through an approval process before setting up the cleaning with a local firm.

Cleaning for A Reason accepts donations on its website. Proctor & Gamble is an official sponsor of the organization. The donations go toward helping identify women in need of services, matching them with cleaning companies and recruiting more services, said Lynn Frankenfield, with Cleaning For A Reason.

"Our main goal is to have women focus on their health so that we can focus on their home," she said.

For Neal, the service is doing just that.

"It is stressful and frustrating when you are tired and there are things that need to be done," said Neal. "It's one less thing to worry about."

Plus, Neal said, she's going to use the time to write letters to her daughters and grandchildren that they can read at milestones in their lives.

Neal's daughter, Kristen Hamerstadt, who lives in Irvington, set up the service for her mother after a friend saw a Facebook posting about it.

"The biggest thing is she doesn't really have the energy," said Hamerstadt. "It's a very daunting task for her to clean, and it's a larger home."

Another of Neal's daughters and two grandchildren, ages 4 and 5, live with Neal. A lot of people want to visit her now, said Hamerstadt, so her mother appreciates having a clean house.

"It's just a blessing in so many ways," said Hamerstadt.

The Leffel brothers want let more women know about their service. They've put a notice on their Angie's List home page and they are in the process of posting one on their website .

Under the initiative, the Leffels have agreed to clean the homes of two women at a time, once a month for four months, while the women are receiving cancer treatments.

"We believe in this and want it to grow," said Dean Leffel, who took over the business from their mother in 2005. "I would love it if all (cleaning) companies would do it."

Monika Christensen, owner of Housekeeping Maid Easy in Fishers, started getting clients through Cleaning For A Reason in 2007, soon after she opened her business. She has provided free cleanings to 28 women since then.

"I wanted to be in on the ground floor and start my business by giving back immediately," said Christensen. "That was something near and dear to my heart."

She's also experienced cancer in her family, including her mother and father. "I know how hard it is when you are undergoing treatments."

In March, Peter Honig, owner of A-1 Quality Cleaning Service in Fishers decided he wanted to join the effort. He's cleaned homes of several women with cancer so far.

Likewise, cancer has hit his family hard. His mother died of breast cancer last year and four other family members and friends have had various types of cancer.

"I donate to many causes," he said. "Anybody that's doing something good for a group, I like to participate. That's what life is all about."

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.