Andrea Hancock has worked in the pest control industry since 2004, when she and her family started Mattress Safe, an industry supplier that supports residential and commercial service providers with mattress encasements that keep out dust mites, bed bugs, bacteria and more. While helping grow Mattress Safe as the company’s vice president, Hancock dreamed of creating an international nonprofit organization that focused on providing clean bedding and pest control services to those in need around the world. It’s a dream that slowly but surely became a reality.
STARTING OUT. Hancock said the idea for P.E.S.T. (Professionals Empowering, Sustaining & Transforming) Relief International first came to her before she even began Mattress Safe. She had seen a documentary that showed missionaries working to replace compromised mattresses at an orphanage, and two children featured in the documentary received a new mattress to replace the one they were sharing that had been chewed through by a rat.
“I thought to myself, ‘I want to do that!’ I want to make cozy places for orphans to sleep, so that they know they are loved and cared for,” said Hancock, who serves as executive director as well as a volunteer for P.E.S.T. “Little did I know that I was going to start a mattress protection company.”
Hancock then began Mattress Safe and started making trips to orphanages in Honduras to provide children in need with clean and safe mattresses and bedding, which was soon to become her primary program that is now known as REST. As Mattress Safe grew and became more successful, Hancock began donating mattress covers to various orphanages and shelters in the United States. In 2012, she began saving her own money, knowing that she would need it in order to launch the nonprofit organization she was envisioning. Three years later, she had saved enough and applied for P.E.S.T. Relief International’s nonprofit status with a mission to unite the pest control industry to bring comfort and relief to those who are orphaned, abused and at risk.
During this time, Hancock invited the pest control industry to help grow P.E.S.T. In 2015, she was first given a platform to share her vision at a thermal remediation conference. That same year, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) donated space at PestWorld for Hancock to officially launch P.E.S.T.
“I had several friends and colleagues who spent countless hours helping me articulate the name, mission and vision of the organization,” Hancock said. “The internal support from Mattress Safe has also encouraged me, as I have been humbled to see the passion and desire of the employees to help this organization thrive in the industry. Additionally, my husband and family have been there every step of the way living out the mission alongside of me.”
Hancock added that P.E.S.T. also received major attention when the Certified Pest Control Operators of Georgia (CPCO of GA) chose it to be their official charity. “They have been highly instrumental in helping to sustain our organization through fundraisers as well as their participation in our initiatives,” she said.
PROVIDING RELIEF. One of P.E.S.T.’s most recent initiatives involved offering aid to citizens in Florida affected by October 2018’s Hurricane Michael. In early December 2018, Hancock and other P.E.S.T. volunteers traveled to the Taunton Family Children’s Home in Wewahitchka, Fla., to combine their disaster relief efforts with REST.
“During our visit, we provided 179 meals, painted fingernails and toes, played basketball and handed out 26 ‘Buddy Bags’ with hand-sewn blankets and stuffed animals and Bibles with personal inscriptions for each child,” Hancock said.
P.E.S.T. then went on to replace destroyed mattresses with new ones, and all beds with new sheets, bedding and mattress encasements. The chainsaw crew also was able to remove 50 damaged or fallen trees that were making the grounds unsafe.
Hancock said that moments like these, when she and other P.E.S.T. volunteers can give those in need both a safe place and spiritual comfort, are what makes the work it took to create P.E.S.T. worth it. “To see how our partnerships with other organizations allow P.E.S.T. Relief to spread hope and healing in these tangible ways is more than I ever hoped for,” she said.
According to Hancock, P.E.S.T. picks who to help based on the location of volunteers. “At this point, when a PCO or state association has expressed interest in volunteering, we ask them to locate a shelter or group home in their area in which to serve,” she said. “As our army of supporters grows, we should be able to accommodate more requests as they emerge in each state.”
Currently, Hancock said P.E.S.T. conducts about 15 initiatives every year in which the organization provides sanitary sleeping conditions to orphanages and shelters through clean bedding and pest control services. In the future, she said she hopes to more than triple that number. “My vision is to host at least one REST initiative per year in every state, while launching new initiatives within the organization,” she said.
FUTURE GOALS. Hancock said her ultimate aim is to make P.E.S.T. the “United Way for the pest control industry.” She pictures the organization as “having various programs where leaders emerge, with more and more professionals partnering in ways that bring them fulfilment while making an impact,” she said. “I would like to see a chapter in every state, and eventually every country, where we have ‘boots on the ground’ serving those in need.”
Part of reaching this goal involves utilizing the international aspect of P.E.S.T. “By combining the efforts and resources of manufacturers, distributors and professionals in the pest management industry, we are teaming up with established global entities to maximize the impact of our reach,” Hancock said. “In return, this new level of accomplishment leads to achieving one’s full potential while transforming the individual and their community.”
In terms of more immediate 2019 goals, Hancock said the organization’s main focus now is to build a children’s home for boys ages 8 to 12. She added that they have already secured the land for the building and are in the research and development stage for a building campaign. Other upcoming goals include an international sewing micro-enterprise for the destitute to improve their lives, a U.S. sewing training program to help at-risk individuals learn a trade, and an apprenticeship program designed for young adults aging out of the foster care system to become employed by the pest control industry.
“Watching the industry unite and serve collaboratively has been very rewarding, as I have heard from many that they always wanted to serve, but they did not know where to begin,” Hancock said. “Now, we have a platform to take comfort and relief to the next level.”
The author is an Ohio-based writer.