Helping the humble:
Eastside business owner offers a clean home and peace of mind for women with cancer
By Cathy Herholdt
November 5, 2007
Elaine Gordon Evans knows that few things are more comforting to women than having a clean home.
"We're by nature the keepers of the home, and if our house is out of order, we're unhappy. It's just the way we're wired," said Evans, who owns Elaine's American Maid, a Redmondbased housecleaning business.
Women who are battling cancer and their families are especially in need of an organized, clean environment, but that's not always possible, especially while un
dergoing chemotherapy. Lack of energy, feeling ill, busy schedules and being emotionally overwhelmed can push housecleaning to the bottom of the priority list. But it's more important than ever for cancer patients to have nice surroundings, said Evans, who offers free housecleaning to women with cancer, husbands who have recently lost their wives to cancer, or those with sick children, through her nonprofit foundation Maid for Life.
"Women who have cancer feel like they've lost control of everything. Having a clean house gives them a sense of having control over their lives," she explained. "It really gives them a mental lift."
Evans came up with the idea when her mother-in-law had cancer and needed some rental houses cleaned that were in bad shape, but she was too ill to do the work herself. She asked one of the cleaners to do the cleaning, and that person was thrilled to be able to help. Evans began contacting hospitals and offering free housecleaning to cancer patients by paying for them herself.
"I get distracted when I can't clean my house. Imagine when you're sick," said Evans, noting that many women feel uncomfortable having friends clean their house. "They're so grateful," said Evans. "Sometimes there are tears that someone would do that for them for free."
The ability to help someone else in need has turned out to be as much of a blessing for the housecleaners as the women with cancer. Through a second foundation, Maid for Work, Evans has helped dozens of women-mostly young, single momslaunch their own cleaning businesses by offering them mentorship and referrals. These same women are often asked to help cancer patients by cleaning their house. It's a match made in heaven, according to Evans. "Here's a woman struggling to keep herself and her baby alive and here's another woman struggling to keep herself alive ... they need each other, and they bond greatly," she said.
Evans still pays for the one-time cleanings out of her own pocket, but hopes to receive enough donations to the Maid for Life Foundation that she can eventually offer weekly housecleaning at no charge to women with cancer. "You can't out give God. The more you give away, it's like a boomerang, it comes back. There's always enough," said Evans. "If I go broke because of that, then so be it."
Cleaning up lives
Helping young women succeed in the housecleaning business is a top priority for Evans, who grew up on welfare in New York, but has been very successful with her business over the past 22 years. She treats the cleaners with kindness and respect. "I don't run a toilet-cleaning business, I'm in the business of cleaning up lives and helping people. That's my passion," she said. "My workers-I love them. They are the most amazing people on the planet. I always say, in a natural disaster, those are the gals I want in my front line. They are so resourceful. What they have to go through just to get to your house is phenomenal. Daycare, the baby's sick, the car breaks down, getting pulled over for a tail light out, losing your insurance ... just to go clean houses-and they're happy to do it," said Evans.
She offers encouragement and strong guidance to young women such as Courtney, a single mom of a two-and-a-halfyear-old son and a one-year-old daughter. Courtney heard about the Maid for Work program when she saw Evans as a guest on a television program about single parenthood. "I identified with her," said Courtney, who called the very next day and went right to work. "I can make just as much money as I would working at a restaurant full time. I can manage my bills, laundry and spend quality time with my kids and not be stressed out."
She calls Evans on the phone regularly for support. "She encourages me every day before I go to work," said Courtney. "I love my job," said Evans. "We only have so much time here. We want to feel like we have an opportunity to make a difference. Every one of us is just walking through life asking, who have I blessed today? How many people have I served today?"With this kind of attitude, Evans says, "What an amazing person we can be while we walk the earth."
For more information about the Maid for Life foundation or to make a donation toward free housecleaning for cancer patients, visit www.maidforlife.org. To contact Elaine Gordon Evans or learn more about her Maid for Work foundation, visit www. elainesamericanmaid.com.