House cleaning service hires, inspires youth

House cleaning service hires, inspires youth

by Staci Giordullo

"There's no real easy way to explain my company," says Erica McCullough, owner of highly rated Living Legacy Development LLC in Baltimore. It may look like just another housecleaning service, but McCullough says her clients are really helping to fund a community service project.

"After hearing [McCullough's] story, I was stunned," says Angie's List member Debbie Justice of Baltimore. Justice is referring to McCullough's policy of only hiring high school and college-aged individuals, most of which come from disadvantaged circumstances but end up thriving under her watchful eye and encouraging manner.

After teaching in Baltimore for 10 years, McCullough started her Super Service Award winning company in 2007 when she heard of a former student's murder and another who committed suicide to avoid joining a gang.

"I knew I needed to do something to help these kids," says the single mom, selecting housecleaning as her method of mentorship because of its small learning curve and the quick confidence boost it gives novice employees. "The Gap might not hire that person, but I will. The kids just want rules and boundaries."

McCullough says for some of her "kids," the $10-an-hour paycheck is the only income supporting their family, but the goal is not for them to stay with her forever.

"I like to give them away to better jobs or internships," she says. "We've sent 20 kids to college so far. And by 'we' I mean myself and the other children using positive peer pressure or help with applications - whatever it takes."

Jessica Holmes worked for McCullough for two years and says although she initially was skeptical of the job, she quickly came to appreciate Erica's work ethic.

"She taught me to not be afraid to try new things," says Holmes, who's now enrolled in community college. "I used to be afraid and have anxiety attacks, but she helped me with my confidence. She helped me with life."

Baltimore-area Angie's List members rave about the thorough cleaning service and support McCullough in her undertaking.

"They found and removed dirt that I didn't even know was there," Mary Sykes says. "We are all products of our neighborhoods, whether we acknowledge it or not. Erica has decided to help create the kind of community she wants to live in, and I want to support that dream."

Justice agrees, and says hiring Living Legacy is worth well more than what she pays. "One hears stories of these kids who fall through the cracks," she says. "To meet this woman who's trying to take these issues head on... it's so impressive."

McCullough is the first to brush away any commendation but tears up when discussing the pride she has for her employees.

"I'm not saying I'm Mother Teresa - nowhere close," she says. "But the kids tell me they know if there's one person in the world that loves them, it's me. When I give a child away knowing they're fully prepared, those are my proudest moments."

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