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The Extra Mile

Above and beyond the call of franchising.
August 1, 1998
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/16252

When Helen Clough became a ServiceMaster franchisee in Boise, Idaho in 1991, she never imagined her carpet and upholstery cleaning service would one day be critical to a young child's survival. However, her franchise has played an important role in creating the sterilized environment that is a matter of life and death for 1-year-old Austin Altig. Austin suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome, an impairment of the immune system that requires him to live in a sterilized bubble within an unusually clean environment.

Austin's grandmother, Edna Altig, first contacted ServiceMaster for an estimate on sanitizing her home. "Helen and I met with her," says Peggy Blodgett, disaster restoration supervisor for ServiceMaster-Boise, "and as she told us more of the story, we just looked at each other and said `What else can we do for this family?' "

"Insurance wouldn't pay for repairs," adds Clough, 47. "None of the family had the funds to do what needed to be done to this house in order for Austin to move home."

With only two other employees to help when they took on the project in April 1997, Clough and Blodgett invested plenty of personal time making phone calls and sending out letters seeking support from local companies. Their efforts sparked a chain reaction. Local media coverage helped publicize Austin's situation, and several local businesses donated products and services, from new windows and flooring to a furnace with a special air filtration system to minimize contaminants. Clough did some of the cleaning and painting herself to speed the renovation.

Blodgett found her company's efforts on Austin's behalf rewarding. "I have a daughter who was born prematurely and in critical condition. The kindness of strangers takes you a long way," she says. "This was an opportunity to give back."