“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
by Gina Biber
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Military Clean, a veteran-owned-and-operated cleaning service, offers clients a “perfect, show-quality clean,” a place for homecoming veterans to adjust when returning from duty, and acts of service that benefit Capitol Hill as well as the surrounding city.
Michelle Michael, founder of Military Clean, started the company in 2009 after having trouble transferring the specialized skill set that she gained overseas into a career at home.
In the beginning, Michael said, “It was just me. I wore my old Navy coveralls at my favorite Capitol Hill Spot, Liberty, and I convinced the owner to let me clean his house. From there, it was a few other people in the neighborhood, and I started to get really good feedback.”
Over the past couple of years, Military Clean has gained an outstanding reputation, and is now able to employee a handful of veterans fulltime. Accompanying home cleaning, it also offers a host of odd jobs, like painting, yard work and shoe shines.
Military Clean’s service, which is based on the meticulous training, professionalism and attention to detail required of the staff while they served in the military, make it stand out among competition. They’re so sure of their performance that they give clients a white glove to inspect their work at the end of a visit.
“The biggest return on your military service is that you are better at stuff,” Michael told The Capitol Hill Times. “You are more disciplined, focused, humble, precise and thorough. All of those virtues fit perfectly into being in someone’s home. It’s less janitorial, and more of an expert kind of detailing.”
But Military Clean doesn’t only benefit the recipients of this cleaning service. It also offers a place for veterans to adjust back to life at home, allowing them to acclimate among people who have a shared nomenclature and similar background.
“I went straight from the Navy to college, which was a real transition for me,” Michael said. “I didn’t feel like I belonged.”
Michael told that among her own staff she has seen tremendous growth in some of her employees.
“Giving back and feeling like you’re still serving is really important, and something that a lot of veterans find a lack of when they return,” Michael said. “They have a need to be useful, and it doesn’t have to stop, it just has to change shape. I get to see guys going from a military mentality to being 27 again. For the people working for me, it’s not an oppressive position, they love this stuff; they love ‘playing military’ when it doesn’t mean ‘their lives or ours.’”
Feeling restless, and wanting to continue serving in a greater capacity, Michael and her team will begin their first volunteer project this Saturday, tackling some of the graffiti and moss at Volunteer Park’s water tower.
“We take ownership of the homes that we clean,” Michael said, “and I thought, let’s extend that to our community, where we work out, where we have lunch, where we’re a part of it.”
As well as making the places that we pass by everyday nice to look at, Michael said that it cements the veterans’ sense of place, helping them feel at home and take pride in their city.
Caught between Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Parks and Recreation, as well as not wanting the tower’s old paint containing some lead to leak into the nearby soil and pollute our water, a concern for safety constrains how much willing volunteers can do. But because of Military Clean veterans’ special training, and a month of Michael pressing SPU and Seattle Parks and Recreation, they were given permission to start cleaning the tower more thoroughly this week.
“Volunteer Park is a good place to start,” Michael said. “We picked the water tower as our first project because we’re stationed here; I live here. Our overall plan is to go to all of the neighborhoods that we can, and find a public space that is enjoyed by everyone, but a little rundown and could use a facelift; something that we can help with our skill set.”
Michael’s team plans to take on one project around the city of Seattle every month or two, starting with Capitol Hill, and then working its way around surrounding neighborhoods.
“I’m open to suggestions, too.” Michael said. “If there’s a part of the neighborhood that says, ‘we would love it if you could do this, then we’re happy to do it.”
Military Clean will start off its volunteer service core, but is eager to partner alongside other veterans and individuals in the community who want to pitch in and make their neighborhood a nicer place to live.
“And I think that it would be great if other businesses took their status and their roles in our community to heart,” Michael said. “If you’re persistent enough, you can actually help.”
For more information about Military Clean, and how you can join in the volunteer projects, email email@example.com or swing by Liberty on Saturday, where the group will be celebrating their first undertaking.