By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – Barbra Hartbarger had a career as a loan officer for a bank as her husband Kevin neared retirement from the Army but decided her family had to come first.
So, she launched her home-based American Home & Living Solutions while her two daughters were still in school. She has grown it into a new career with 10 flex-time employees, serving clients from Kempner to Temple and Salado.
Hartbarger doesn't do much sponge and mop work anymore, and not much paperwork, either; her husband and a part-time employee handle most of that. She oversees it all and spends most of her time on her greatest joy, which is visiting clients and practicing the "living solutions" part of the company name.
This is helping people arrange their living space for maximum efficiency and aesthetic design, sometimes with new furnishings and sometimes just by rearranging what they have.
"I help people get everything back in balance," Hartbarger said, "so that their homes are not just places they return to after work but are a joy that give them some of the feeling of going on a vacation in the time they spend there."
Hartbarger started the business in 2002. In 2004, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Hartbarger and her company helped her mother take care of her house until she was pronounced cancer-free.
In 2006, a nonprofit organization called Cleaning for a Reason began in Lewisville to keep house for women who are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for cancer, and Hartbarger aligned with it. She plans to be in Austin Monday for the reading of a resolution by Sen. Jane Nelson making this "Cleaning for a Reason Week" in Texas.
Hartbarger had already changed her company's colors to include pink in honor of her mother's recovery, and her "living solutions" work includes making attractive spaces for medical equipment such as oxygen tanks.
Member agencies of Cleaning for a Reason pay a monthly pledge based on their abilities to pay and agree to clean two houses per month free of charge, although they can take more assignments.
Clients find them by registering with the foundation online at www.cleaningforareason.org.
The foundation verifies that clients are taking chemo or radiation therapy and assigns a member agency. Different agencies may care for one client, but a client's visits are currently limited to four until more contributing agencies can be found.
"It makes a big difference in a patient's life to have one less thing to take care of," she said. "And it really helps their outlook to have a clean, well-organized house."
Cleaning for a Reason has more than 400 partner agencies in 43 states, including 46 in Texas. Another partner in Killeen is Cleaning Elements, owned by Jessica Sanders.
Hartbarger said her company has "grown at a comfortable rate" with no advertising but referrals and has served more than 1,000 clients.
"We want to establish a long-term relationship," she said. "We have clients who have been with us since I started the business."
The company belongs to the Better Business Bureau and the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce, as well as nationwide trade associations.
"I'm happy to be able to give back to the community with something I like and I'm good at," she said.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.