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 cleaningforareason.org.