By Eleanor Gilman
Cranston, Rhode Island, is home to many elderly veterans. Noticing their struggle to mow lawns or rake leaves, Anne Aldridge-Baligian, 41, wondered whether these retired soldiers in her neighborhood were also having trouble maintaining the inside of their houses. The veterans reminded her of her great-grandfather, who fought in the army in World War I and died at age 89, having lived the last eight years of his life alone as a widower. She started thinking about what would have happened to him if he hadn't had family nearby.
Anne's interest in the welfare of veterans stems from many close ties. She is also the daughter of a Vietnam navy veteran, the niece of a Vietnam army veteran and the granddaughter of a World War II army veteran. Her son is in Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, and her daughter has friends who are entering the military. "Because of my family's connections, I have a very strong respect for our veterans, which has fueled a desire to improve their quality of life," she says.
As the owner of Ocean State House Cleaning, Anne was determined to help in the way she knew best—by enabling veterans to maintain their homes. "The desire to assist veterans developed over time," she recalls, "but the idea for Cleaning for Heroes [CFH] was like a lightbulb going off in my head."
Initially, she looked for an organization that matched cleaning services like hers with veterans requiring assistance, but she didn't find any. So in 2010 she launched the nonprofit CFH, dedicated to providing free house tidying to vets in need due to old age, physical or mental illness, lost limbs or other restrictions.