Aloha Maiden founder April Brobst describes herself as an old school kind of cleaner: “I move everything, pull everything out, clean behind, up, down, you know, all-around. It’s just the way I was brought up.”
Growing up, Brobst and her five siblings had to clean before doing anything else on the weekends. While the boys cleared the yard, the girls deep-cleaned the house. Every few months, they’d also wash the windows and change the draperies.
Now the co-owner of Aloha Maiden Cleaning Service LLC – her daughter is a silent partner – Brobst’s attention to detail is improving the quality of life for kūpuna throughout Hilo. “It’s not just about making a house pretty and clean,” she says. “It’s all about taking care of all the dust that floats, all the mold and mildew that builds up. We have to breathe that and that’s not healthy for anybody.”
Brobst’s compassion for kūpuna was crystallized in Oregon, where she first started cleaning professionally, mostly on her own. A 94-year-old client told her that she’d been able to keep up with housework herself until rheumatoid arthritis started making it difficult even to bend, let alone clean. “It’s a blessing being able to go and do things for people they can’t do for themselves anymore,” says Brobst.
When Brobst moved back to Hilo four years ago to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren, she wasn’t planning to continue her cleaning service. But almost immediately, she and her daughter spent a week cleaning out the rental they were planning to move into. When their realtor Garth Yamanaka saw the finished product, he encouraged Brobst to start a professional cleaning business.
Brobst wasn’t sure – she had no experience managing people – but her daughter convinced her to give it a try. “She said, ‘Mom, just teach them what you do. That’s all,’” Brobst recalls.
Now Aloha Maiden has five part-time employees, some of whom are in the process of cleaning up their own lives. “We’ve had great success with people coming from incarceration or substance abuse,” Brobst says. “I want them to have hope and know that their lives don’t stop right there.” The steady work and regular paychecks have enabled some of the moms she’s hired to reunite with children who had been in foster care.
“Don’t get stuck,” she tells her employees. “When I hire them, I don’t tell them you’re just going to be a sweeper and a vacuumer all your life. I’m looking for leaders. I’m looking for people to grow.”