FRANCONIA, VA — When times are tough, heroes emerge. We all know someone who's making a difference right now as we live through unprecedented and changing times.
Here at Patch, we've launched an initiative to help recognize these heroes making a difference in their communities. Together with Ring, we're working to let all your neighbors know about these outstanding people and their stories.
This submission comes from Diana De Loza, who nominated her mother Paula Garrison for running an essential business. Garrison owns Maid Solution, kept her employees on staff, and is helping cancer patients.
When the pandemic started closing things down, Paula Garrison's employees were scared. The employees at Franconia-based cleaning service Maid Solution didn't want to lose their jobs that supported their children and households.
But they didn't have to worry, as Garrison kept her 22 employees paid and off unemployment. The workers feel like they're making a difference too. Garrison says that while they're not front-line medical workers, the workers clean to help prevent the spread of disease.
"The ladies say 'we're superheroes' with their brooms and vacuums," said Garrison.
Maid Solution, a small business dating back to 1993, is a cleaning service classified as essential during the pandemic. They serve clients like small offices and residential property owners in the greater Alexandria area.
Even as an essential business, the pandemic didn't come without hardships for the small business. In March, the business lost 50 percent of clients. Garrison used savings and obtained a Paycheck Protection Program loan to stay afloat.
Times are tough, but Garrison is making a difference in another way. Maid Solution is working with Cleaning for a Reason to offer free house cleaning for cancer patients. As a cancer survivor herself, Garrison knows that having someone to help with cleaning can help patient focus on treatment. The business has already identified one patient to help: a woman in Franconia.
During the pandemic, Maid Solution has made procedural changes and retrain staff, including the use of face masks, shoes covers and gloves, and switch to a hospital grade disinfectant. Communicating with clients about safety measures helped with the gradual return of customers, Garrison said. But she understands that clients who are at higher risk from the coronavirus won't be able to have maids enter their homes for now.
Making employees feel safe is key to continued success for Maid Solution. Because staff had to be trained on new equipment, Garrison offered Google Classroom training so they wouldn't have to come in person. Staff have also been coming into the Maid Solution office on staggered schedules to limit the people inside.
Maid Solution has also provided personal protective equipment for employees. The ladies have told Garrison they feel safer than they would in other workplaces, as they know people who've had to provide their own PPE at work.
"The best reward is seeing my employees happy," said Garrison.
Another change is asking clients to notify the business if someone experienced symptoms of COVID-19 illness. They're able to cancel without a charge because is the top concern, Garrison said.
Maid Solution's clients typically receive recurring services on a weekly or monthly basis. Clients' properties are typically cleaned by the same teams, so employees are comfortable and familiar with the settings.
Garrison, who lived in Kingstowne before moving to Great Falls, is fond of the communities the business serves, particularly the military clients and Old Town Alexandria. She has optimism that things will get better with the state of the pandemic and business.
"I am hopeful because if we lose hope, we lose everything," she said.
And neither did her employees have to lose hope, as they've kept their jobs and provided cleaning services in a time when they're more appreciated than ever.
The business can accept clients in the Alexandria area and around Fairfax County. For more information, visit www.maidsolution.com.