Jennifer Gilbride spent most of last year battling cancer: first surgery, then chemotherapy and finally energy-sapping radiation.

The last thing she wanted to do was clean her bathroom.

So when four girls showed up on her doorstep ready to give her home the white-glove treatment, the Wickliffe wife and mother of two heaved a big sigh of relief.

Not only did the crew make the house sparkle, but the white-glove treatment didn't cost Gilbride a dime.

The idea for the free cleanings originated with businesswoman Deborah Sardone, who owns a housekeeping service. She was touched by the needs of her ailing clients and decided to do something about it.

Two years ago, Sardone launched Cleaning for a Reason in her home state of Texas. Since then the foundation has partnered with 250 cleaning services across the country and is looking for more volunteer agencies to join the cause.

Companies such as Chardon-based Professional Housecleaning Services, the one that cleaned Gilbride's house, say they get as much out of the experience as their clients.

"I don't know of anybody who hasn't been affected by cancer, whether it's family, a personal relationship or going through cancer themselves," said Shawn Day, president of Professional Housecleaning Services in Chesterland.

Day decided to join the effort because it benefited women directly. "We wanted to get involved with some sort of charity that would help women right away," he said.

Day's employees all are paid for their time; it's the company that absorbs the cost. A typical two-hour cleaning costs about $100, and each woman is eligible for four free cleanings.

"It's just a fantastic thing," said Day. "It helps our employees and gives them a sense of worth. All of our employees are 100 percent behind this.

John Jones, owner of www.Houseworketc.com in Westlake, also participates in Cleaning for a Reason. He heard about it through his church and has become such a big proponent that he has been dropping in at oncology support groups to try to get the word out to women in need.

"Cancer is so traumatic for people and so physically difficult for people that the last thing they think about is wanting to clean," said Jones. "But it plays heavily on their mind, and it's unsettling to have a house that is not to their liking."

Jones also likes the fact that it's open to women with all kinds of cancer.

One of the women helped by Jones' agency is a single mother with three children. Jones said her condition was diagnosed shortly after she moved into her new home and the financial challenges have been great. Jones said he was glad to have the opportunity to help.

Gilbride, a surgical nurse at Euclid Hospital, found out about the program from another mother. Her fourth free housecleaning will coincide with her breast reconstruction in March. "This is the best gift you can give someone who is going through cancer," she said.