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We Were Featured In The Main Line Today

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Cleaning up is big business in Thornbury

Sunday, January 10, 2010

By Kathleen E. Carey

THORNBURY — Mark Villone regretted his words the second he said them.

A woman had called the owner of the Mop-Ups Cleaning Service to get an estimate over the summer. She and her neighbors had taken a collection to have the house of a friend who was battling cancer cleaned once a month.

“I told her I’d slash my rates and take one-third off,” Villone said. “The entire time I’m thinking, ‘I should do it for free. I should do it for free. I should do it for free.’”

He said he used the justification of a bad economy for charging a fee.

“That’s an excuse,” Villone told himself after the conversation ended. “It’s lame and I knew it. It was eating me alive. I knew I was making the wrong decision as the words came out of my mouth.”

So, when his wife, Christine, who’s the company’s marketing director, approached him about participating in Cleaning for a Reason, a non-profit organization that provides free housecleaning services for cancer patients, Mark Villone didn’t hesitate.

Villone’s family, in fact, has been touched by cancer.

The business itself was started by Mark’s sister, Gina Szathmary of Havertown, in 1994. He got involved a few years later after being laid off from the real estate industry and since then has mastered cleaning all sorts of things, including toilets.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said. “It’s an honest man’s or woman’s work. And it can be profitable too.”

Three years ago, Szathmary was diagnosed with breast cancer and she’s looking forward to participating in the philanthropic effort.

“She just wants to give back because so many people gave to her,” Christine Villone said, adding that Szathmary is still a part-time employee of Mop-Ups.

The couple is also anticipating the venture as their now 12-year-old son, Michael, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma as an infant.

“It’s stressful when you have a sick child,” Christine Villone said. “He’s very lucky to be alive.”

His experience was partially why the Villones chose to use non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products with their cleaning service.

“People want to make sure they’re not adding more toxins to their home,” Christine Villone said. “The services don’t cost any more to use green products.”

The company serves commercial and residential facilities from a 750-square-foot two-bedroom apartment in Lansdowne to a 15,000-square-foot office building.

Their service area comprises of Delaware, Chester and parts of Montgomery counties as well as northern Delaware.

Christine Villone explained that cancer patients could apply for Mop-Ups to provide four free monthly cleanings by visiting the Cleaning for a Reason Web site at www.cleaningforareason.org and filling out the request form.

She said the company hopes to complete two cleanings a month.

“We’re very anxious,” she said. “Our employees – they all volunteered to do this. We’re so excited to get started.”

Her husband, who never heard from the initial caller again, sees it as an important way to give back.

“Maybe,” Mark Villone said, “I’m going to feel a little bit better that I’m helping these people out. I’m humbled by the fact that they’d even want to use us.”

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