Cleansing the soul

A Phil­adelphia-based busi­ness provides com­pli­ment­ary clean­ing ser­vices through na­tion­al or­gan­iz­a­tion to wo­men with can­cer.

Raylene Arko, left, and Emily Hearn pose for a quick photo after a clean­ing ses­sion of Emily’s South Phil­adelphia home. Photo by Mat­thew Hauben­stein/ Star Photo

While the hol­i­day sea­son is tra­di­tion­ally a time when people fo­cus on giv­ing back, Raylene Arko and her team abide by the sen­ti­ment all year round.

Arko is the own­er and op­er­at­or of Keep it Clean with Raylene, a res­id­en­tial and com­mer­cial clean­ing ser­vice. The busi­ness is loc­ated on Rich­mond Street in Port Rich­mond, where Raylene lived and grew up. When she star­ted the busi­ness in 1994, she served a hand­ful of homes, Now, Arko and her busi­ness go to more than 150 homes throughout the city.

It’s more than just a clean­ing ser­vice, it’s a busi­ness that cares.

Arko and the clean­ers at Keep it Clean tend to the houses of wo­men suf­fer­ing from can­cer. This is done through an or­gan­iz­a­tion called Clean­ing for a Reas­on.

The non­profit pairs maid ser­vice com­pan­ies with those who are in need of their ser­vices. It’s based in Texas, but with more than 1,200 maid ser­vices par­ti­cip­at­ing and 23,000 wo­men served, Clean­ing for a Reas­on makes an im­pact on many wo­men’s lives na­tion­wide.

Arko has been par­ti­cip­at­ing in the pro­gram since its cre­ation in 2006. The ser­vices offered by Arko through the Clean­ing for a Reas­on are com­pletely free of charge. Arko re­ceives no com­pens­a­tion from the pa­tients nor the or­gan­iz­a­tion, but does pay her work­ers for their time and ef­forts.

Over the past 10 years, the em­ploy­ees at Keep it Clean have helped wo­men throughout the city of­fer­ing the com­pli­ment­ary clean­ings.

“We wanted a way to give back,” Arko said, “and we thought this would be the best way.”

Help­ing wo­men with ba­sic clean­ing ser­vices, something that they may not have the time nor strength for, is a struggle fa­mil­i­ar to Arko. Her moth­er was dia­gnosed with breast can­cer. She won the battle against it and has been a sur­viv­or for the past 11 years. This is one of the driv­ing factor that makes Arko want to help.

“It’s a way to help out these won­der­ful wo­men who need the help and ap­pre­ci­ate the help,” Arko said. “You want to worry about get­ting bet­ter, not if your sink is filled with dishes or your bath­room has some soap scum.”

One of the lucky wo­men who is cur­rently be­ne­fit­ing from the Arko’s ser­vices is Emily Hearn, who lives on Emily Street in South Phil­adelphia with her cats Sasha and Malia (named after Pres­id­ent Barack Obama’s daugh­ters). Hearn will have one few­er thing to worry about for the next few months, a ser­vice she is very happy to have.

“I am in­cred­ibly grate­ful,” Hearn said. “I’m really happy to qual­i­fy for the ser­vice.”

In 2015, a few days be­fore Christ­mas, Hearn was dia­gnosed with Stage 2 breast can­cer. She went through chemo­ther­apy, sur­gery and ra­di­ation ther­apy to be­come can­cer free.

Clean­ing is of­ten an af­ter­thought when ther­apy is in pro­gress. Pa­tients’ en­ergy is drained and strength and mo­tiv­a­tion are at a min­im­um, ac­cord­ing to Hearn.

It may seem like a simple thing, but a clean house can go a long way for those strug­gling with can­cer.

“Not hav­ing to worry about [clean­ing] is a big help,” Hearn said. “When you’re in can­cer treat­ment, you’re sick of­ten. It’s just feels nice to have any­thing taken care of.

Teresa Miller, one of the work­ers at Keep it Clean, has been with Arko for many years. She has cleaned for many can­cer pa­tients who were in the pro­gram. Age, race and eco­nom­ics set aside, can­cer was a try­ing and ter­rible bur­den for them. Just be­ing able to help them suf­fer less or lessen the bur­den on their shoulders is something Miller finds ful­filling.

“It makes us feel good to give something back,” she said. “We wo­men have to stick to­geth­er, and we are happy to help.”

Miller poin­ted out the fact that this could hap­pen to any­one, from a vari­ety of ill­nesses or oth­er, maybe some­times ran­dom, neg­at­ive sur­prises that may hinder qual­ity of liv­ing.

Know­ing that there are people out there to care and want to help is great, ac­cord­ing to Miller.

Help­ing oth­ers is al­ways a re­ward­ing thing no mat­ter the time of year, ac­cord­ing to Arko.

“Can­cer doesn’t have a cer­tain time of the year,” she said. “It af­fects people Monday through Fri­day. 24 hours a day. Sev­en days a week. So you shouldn’t wait to have a reas­on to give back. You should do it be­cause it makes you feel good.”

While help­ing oth­ers provides a sense of ful­fill­ment, those who are on the re­ceiv­ing end are just as ful­filled, a feel­ing that can be shared all year round.

“It’s a feel­ing of care,” Hearn said. “It’s good to know there’s people out there that care about you go­ing through this struggle.” SPR

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it clean­ing­for­areas­