Story & photos by Janie Magruder
They shared a room as little girls, the elder sister often moving around the furniture and decorations in her half of the room, the baby of the family seeing no need to change things in her always tidy space. Matthew and Jerry Giacalone’s daughters eventually moved out of their family home, began their careers, got married and started their families.
But when their father was placed on hospice about a year ago, they didn’t hesitate to give their mother what she needed the most — time to focus on their father — by taking over upkeep of their parents’ home, inside and out.
This required the siblings, Rebecca Owens of Tempe and Doti Guymon of Gilbert, to make frequent and lengthy car trips together to the West Valley.
During those stuck-in-traffic times, a business idea was born.
“We love spending time together,” said Guymon, who works part-time in event planning. “We saw an opportunity to hang out and have something productive.”
“And, gradually, we could see doing this as a business when we didn’t have such an emotional attachment to the situation,” said Owens, a retired FedEx courier.
The women launched A Helping Hand, a home-based business that provides myriad services — from arranging photos in albums and opening mail for older people with health issues to organizing messy crafts rooms and tackling the cluttered garages of young moms.
Guymon and Owens finish projects that start out as good ideas, but end up being stalled because well-intentioned people run out of patience, interest or time.
Some jobs take a day, some a week, and some are ongoing, but no job is too big or small.
Brynne Payne’s three-car garage is crowded with her 3- year-old’s little red wagon, her 1-year-old’s stroller, a boxed Christmas tree and other seasonal decorations, her husband’s tools and golf clubs, containers of cleaning and garden supplies, camp- ing equipment, a canopy and more.
“My husband used to park here,” she said, pointing to the mostly-invisible floor. The Paynes moved into their Tempe home in 2014, crowding their belongings into cabinets stilled stowed with paint and floor tiles from the previous owner. Life happened, two babies arrived, and Payne found herself with no time to deal with the building clutter.
On a recent morning, Owens and Guymon met Payne in her garage, wearing gloves, having masks available and keeping a safe distance because of COVID-19. They opened cabinets, talked priorities and created a plan to produce a perfectly organized space within a week.
Fortunately, Payne’s husband already had built racks for the family’s hiking gear, a peg board for tools and a dandy vertical system for hanging fishing poles.
But one of the things Payne wanted most was a clean work bench so she wouldn’t have to repeat the risky experi- ence of hammering something on top of a wobbly saw horse.
Owens noticed immediately that cabinets needed ad- ditional shelves because vertical space was being wasted, while Guymon advocated for easy-to-grab bins or buckets to hold supplies for similar cleaning jobs.
Duplicate supplies should be combined, and old paint tossed. Earmarking sections of cabinets for seasonal dec- orations also was advised, as was keeping a sturdy step stool nearby because of the height of some cabinets.
For clients who are emotionally attached to items — perhaps old baby clothes, kids’ books or furniture — Owens and Guymon help them separate items into three piles — keep, give away and trash.
They gently encourage clients to take in the totality of the piles, to touch the items and think about what they love and what they can do without. In time, wise decisions come.
A Helping Hand also has amassed a substantial list of nonprofits accepting donations of usable goods. So far, the sisters’ business is growing primarily by word-of-mouth.
Helping comes naturally to the sisters. “Our mother has a giving heart,” Guymon said. “She always had an open house — our home was your home — and serving others got passed down to us and to our brothers.”