When Rhonda Griffin and her husband Keith launched Pest Free Maintenance, Inc. back in 1989, they focused on offering affordable, safer solutions for controlling unwanted critters.
“Our objective was mainly to educate people on safer pest control solutions. That’s our mission,” said Griffin, president and CEO of Pest Free Maintenance.
“When people come into our shop, we give professional advice. We want them to try to make sure that they get the most out of their money,” she says, noting that they educate their customers on the proper use of pest control products.
“We take what we do very seriously.”
Since the Griffins launched their North Philadelphia-based company 23 years ago, they have been using integrated pest management (IPM), which is a less toxic method for controlling pests.
Griffin joined forces with Penn State University in their community outreach efforts through the Philadelphia School and Community Integrated Pest Management (PSCIP).
Through the partnership, Griffin participated in a row house project with 19 homes in Philadelphia where she educated residents about health risks associated with high pest populations and trained residents on how to choose safer products that reduce their risk to toxic pesticides.
“We saw that after our training that people understood the importance of safer pest control practices,” says Griffin, who is an IPM health educator.
For instance, residents learned that certain sprays and fogger pesticides could aggravate asthma symptoms, the importance of sealing up openings in their homes, and proper food storage to prevent infestation.
After obtaining certification from the Philadelphia Minority Business Enterprise Council, the Griffins started submitting bids for City work. They were awarded contracts with entities such as the Delaware River Port Authority, SEPTA, Philadelphia International Airport and the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Throughout the years, Pest Free Maintenance has serviced businesses, prisons, churches and schools.
The company currently provides extermination services for more than 15 PHA residential complexes.
Due to her association with Penn State, Griffin also provides IPM training to PHA residents.
“People need to know the role that they play in pest control. We need their cooperation regarding sanitation, food storage, de-cluttering and reporting to the manager any structural issues in their homes,” says Griffin.
Griffin was first exposed to the business by her father, who owned an exterminating business. When Keith suggested that they form their own company, she moved on the opportunity to bring their pest management services to North Philadelphia.
While Griffin keeps things running on the administrative end, she also goes out into the field, particularly on bedbug abatement jobs.
In 2010, Griffin partnered with Resources for Human Development, Penn State and other local pest management corporations to train ex-offenders to become licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture as pest management professionals.
Griffin has a passion for creating opportunities for ex-offenders to re-enter the workforce and become productive, contributing members of society.
“I’m a firm believer in second chances,” says Griffin.
“I want to reach out to more young men and let them understand that their position in society is one of leadership. You can’t lead if you’re not employed.”
With that in mind, she hired Jerry Fuller, who participated in the RHD’s training program.
“Miss Rhonda hired me at a time when I was at a point where I was trying to turn my life around. I had just come out from being incarcerated. She took the chance on me, and she gave me a job that I can actually be proud of — a job that I can feed my kids with,” said Fuller, who is a pest management professional.
“It’s not many people who are willing to give people a second chance, and she gave me one. I’m forever in her debt for that,” said Fuller.