ICS Magazine

The Unsung Women Heroes of the Last 50 Years

February 4, 2013

Find more ICS 50th Anniversary content at www.icsmag.com/50.

There are dozens of well-know people who have influenced the cleaning and restoration industry over the last 50 years. I’m sure many of them will be named in this tribute from the other talented professionals in our industry; however, I’d like to mention a few who may not be acknowledged - the ladies affiliated with the cleaning and restoration industry who have influenced me most.

I started my fabric care business, Interior Care Inc in Chattanooga, TN, with Ginger Kachline back in the late 1980s when it was almost unheard of for women to run a cleaning business. Believe it or not, we were quite successful. In fact Ginger is still running the company and doing quite well. In those early years, we met many other company owners through our trade association, Society of Cleaning Technicians (SCT). Most were men, supported by their wonderful wives. Kathy Reets of Champion Cleaning Systems of Sharpsburg, GA is one of the greatest! She’s a super mom of four terrific kids, including Jeremy Reets of Reets Drying Academy. 

ginger kachline headshot Kathy Reets headshot
Ginger Kachline Kathy Reets

This is about the same time that I met Patti Savelle of Albany, GA, who was running a flourishing cleaning and restoration company, Bishop Clean Care. Patti was the treasurer of ISCT for many years and helped it grow to one of the largest trade associations in the industry. She has just recently retired from her business and her son, Jud, and daughter-in-law, Jenny, have taken over the reins.

Patti Savelle headshotPatti Savelle

Some 25 years ago, when I first became involved with the IICRC, I met Lindsay Barlow, Assistant Executive Administrator of KCI (administrator of IICRC) and Carolee Hill, co-office manager of KCI and wife of Tom Hill. Both of these ladies helped support me as an IICRC Board of Directors (BOD) member and especially helped me during my two-year presidency. Lindsay and I still keep in touch by-e-mail and remain good friends even though we only see each other every few years.

Lindsay Barlow headshot Carolee Hill headshot
Lindsay Barlow Carolee Hill

Two women instructors who I highly respect and I believe have truly impacted the industry are Rachel Adams, AMRT Instructor, and Claudia Lezelle, IICRC Instructor for hard surface inspection. Each of these strong women has contributed hundreds of volunteer hours on committees and in teaching others.

Rachel Adams headshot Claudia Lezell headshot
Rachel Adams Claudia Lezell

Cindy Sayre Boland has helped the carpet cleaning industry become more respected by consumers and the carpet mills by working behind the scenes in her lab at Shaw Industries. She served on the IICRC Carpet Cleaning Standard’s committee and even had a seat on the IICRC BOD. Pat Jennings, of the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), has also helped carpet cleaners become more recognized through her position as Director of the SOA Service Provider Program.

Pat Jennings headshotPat Jennings

Three wonderful women who have tirelessly supported their husbands “behind the scenes” for years are Joanna DeLoatch, of The Cleaner’s Coach and wife of Bruce DeLoatch, Janet Dobbins, IICRC Exams Chair and wife of Joe Dobbins and Tryna Cooper, former IICUC Secretary and wife of Larry Cooper. The saying that “behind every successful man is a great woman,” is certainly apropos when mentioning these ladies.

Joanna Deloatch headshot Janet Dobbins headshot Tryna Cooper headshot
Joanna DeLoatch Janet Dobbins Tryna Cooper

In just the past few years I have gotten to know and highly respect Ellen Amirkhan, of Oriental Rug Cleaning Company. Being a “rug nut,” I have found Ellen to be more than willing to share her knowledge of rugs with her students and peers. She is a true Texas lady with a heart of gold.

travis amirkhan headshot
Ruth Travis and Ellen Amirkhan

One of the most brilliant women I’ve ever met is Dr. Agnes Zsednai, of WoolSafe® Organization of Otley, England. Originally from Hungary, Agnes has overseen the WoolSafe® chemical testing program, and since Paul Bakker’s semi-retirement, she has taken over as the Managing Director. Since becoming the Director of WoolSafe® in North America, she has supported and mentored me, and become a good friend.

Agnes ZsednaiAgnes Zsednai

One of the upcoming woman leaders of the cleaning and restoration industry is Jenny Boymal, administrator of Jena Dyco in Sydney, Australia. Jenny makes your head swim with her enthusiasm for our industry. Having traveled “down under” to teach for her school several times, I have to say she can pack more activity in one day than I can do in three. Jenny has recently joined the IICRC BOD and will no doubt have a great influence on their decisions.

Of course, I have to mention two women who have always supported me throughout my calling in this male-dominated industry - my mother, Eileen Rodgers, and my beautiful daughter, Dana Rains, who was the administrator of ISCT for several years.

travis rains rodgers group shot
Dana Rains, Eileen Rodgers and Ruth Travis

There are countless other ladies I haven’t mentioned who have influenced my career or have supported their husbands, brothers, sons and daughters in their cleaning or restoration careers. Thanks to all of them for what they have done to make it a better industry for all of us!