GURNEE – Fabiola Llanes has two great joys in life: cleaning and helping others.
To pursue her first joy, she and business partner and friend Melissa Tosta took a leap of faith and opened their own Gurnee-based cleaning business, Genesis Cleaning Experts, in June of this year, leaving behind their previous lives as car sales auditor and quality control specialist, respectively.
Not long after that, they discovered Cleaning for a Reason and they knew they had found a way to chase that second joy.
Launched in 2006, Cleaning for a Reason is a nonprofit organization that offers free housecleaning services to women undergoing treatment to combat cancer. It partners with cleaning services throughout the United States and Canada who donate their time and services. In the past 13 years, they have provided clean homes for more than 30,000 women.
“We heard about it and we immediately jumped on it,” Llanes said. “We know how important it is to have a clean space when you’re healthy, so how much more important is it when you’re not healthy? When you have a cold, all you want to do is lay in bed and do nothing, so I could not even imagine having to go through chemo and not be able to clean your house. … When we’re cleaning for these people – I don’t want to say we do it better than other people’s houses – but … I can’t describe it. It’s just an amazing feeling to know we can help in just a little way.”
Asking for – and accepting – help was not an easy thing for Hainesville resident Heather Dethloff, but when her energy dipped drastically from her chemotherapy treatment, she knew she had to begin prioritizing where and how to use the energy she retained. After buying and moving into a new house with husband, Brad, she finally felt comfortable inviting someone into her home and allowing them to clean for her. After settling into their new home, Dethloff found Llanes’ cleaning company through Cleaning for a Reason and accepted the help they were only too happy to provide.
“It’s like hitting a refresh button on a browser,” Dethloff said. “It’s a refresh button and everything’s all in order – and it frees up time. Because my energy is limited, it frees up time …to use my energy, since it’s limited, to use it where I need to use it or want to use it.”
Dethloff was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in July 2018 and quickly created a treatment plan with her doctors to remove and eliminate the cancer in her body, but when doctors found the cancer had spread, the plan shifted to a lifelong plan of chemotherapy and other treatments with a 5 percent survival rate beyond five years. This prognosis led Dethloff to shift her priorities and take control of her life when there didn’t seem to be much she could control to live “the best damn life I can have.” Part of that required looking past her discomfort in accepting help in areas she could delegate to other people, such as Llanes, and that simple decision has made a world of difference in her life.
“When you’re working and you’re tired, you prioritize all the major things, but [Fabiola and Melissa] really get the details and you notice a big difference,” she said. “It makes you feel better emotionally and physically, even, because your home becomes more of a haven. … [They add] just charming little touches. I had a bag of apples I had bought and they took them out and put them in a little basket I have. It just felt special.”
Dethloff was the first client that Llanes and her partner have cleaned for through Cleaning for a Reason, but they hope she will be the first of many. As Christians, Llanes and Tosta both see this as a calling to help people, but still feel like there is more they can be doing to help.
“We knew that there was something else that God had in store for us,” Llanes said. “When we heard about Cleaning for a Reason … Melissa and I didn’t even think twice about it. It’s about helping. To us, it’s just easy; it’s easy to clean because we love it, but we know when people are going through something like chemo, their energy is barely there. So if we could help that way, we just knew we had to do it.”