Making a clean start


By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

Alisha Stiers poses for a photo with Westside Business Owner John Rush.

It began with smoking weed and drinking in high school. Then taking pain pills, and finally heroin.

It ended with her life spiraling out of control, being sentenced to jail and losing her kids to foster care.

Yet for Hilltop resident Alisha Stiers, her years struggling with addiction weren’t the final chapter in her book. In fact, her time behind bars was both the end of one chapter and the beginning of another that would eventually intersect with a Westside business owner’s own story of addiction, healing and second chances.

Changing perceptions and shattering myths

Growing up in West Virginia, John Rush watched as his mother struggled with addiction and felt the instability that it caused.

He considers himself fortunate that he found comfort and a sense of balance with his father, whom he learned from the value of hard work and treating customers well, Rush says.

When Rush and his wife later moved to Chicago, he met with several men on behalf of his church who were homeless or returning home from prison.

“I learned the struggle that they experienced with finding employment because of their background,” he said.

Rush began a painting business that employed these men who he says were hard workers, but simply needed a chance.

“I became passionate about this idea of fair chance employment, and I was convinced that a business could be viable, making a profit that supports its employees while providing supportive employment to people regardless of their background,” he said.

When Rush moved to Columbus, a group of philanthropic investors supported the launching of his business, CleanTurn, a commercial cleaning company with the mission of changing perceptions and shattering the myth that people’s pasts dictate their futures.

“In the beginning, CleanTurn did any work that we could find to support our staff – lawncare, painting, trash removal and cleaning,” Rush said. “Gradually we focused on the cleaning space because of the low barriers to entry, the demand and the consistency of the work.”

The company also began performing interior demolition work, which eventually became its own business in 2020 called 180 Demo. Among Rush’s employees are those who were formerly incarcerated or those who have faced addiction.

“For some of our staff, this is their first real chance at stable employment and career growth, and knowing that someone believes in them can be the motivation they need to pursue growth and set goals for them and their families,” Rush said.

Five years ago, Stiers knew she needed to begin believing in herself, but also needed someone else to believe in her as well. That’s when she reached out to CleanTurn.

A new beginning

At eight months pregnant with her youngest daughter, Stiers found herself serving a nine-day jail sentence after she was arrested for drug possession. Her other children had been placed in foster care a month prior.

While in jail, Stiers went into labor.

“I had to leave (my daughter) at the hospital and go back to jail to finish my nine days,” she said.

She recalls those days five years and six months ago as dark yet full of hope. It was that time in jail that also marked the start of her sobriety, she says.

After her time served, she immediately began a two-year program called HART, or Helping Achieve Recovery Together. The HART program is a two-year, four-phase drug court certified by the Supreme Court of Ohio that gives defendants with a history of treatment, refusal or non-compliance the opportunity to engage in addiction treatment.

Ohio has one of the highest drug overdose death rates nationally, with 15 percent of the prison population incarcerated for drug possession charges, according to the Franklin County Municipal Drug Court.

Five months into the program, another participant introduced her to CleanTurn. She reached out and was offered a job as a field associate.

About two months ago, Stiers received another promotion – this time as night shift manager.

A chance at professional and personal growth

Clean since Jan. 13, 2018, Stiers now lives with her five children in affordable residential housing provided by Rush Real Estate Holdings.

In addition to CleanTurn and 180 Demo, Rush also operates Third Way Cafe, which is focused on both offering a cup of coffee and fostering community on the Westside, as well as Koko, which is just around the corner from Third Way and is a refillery retail shop that focuses on caring for the environment.

“All of these endeavors also support and are supported by our real estate company, which focuses on providing residential housing on the Westside, especially for those employed at CleanTurn or 180 Demo,” Rush said.

Providing work to someone, who in the past has either not had the opportunity because of challenges or has not been in a healthy space, opens up doors for growth for businesses, employees, their families and the community as a whole, he says.

“We have experienced first-hand the growth that can come from someone who is given the opportunity to join a team of other people who care for each other, not only for what they can do for the business, but as individuals with unique stories and experiences,” Rush said.

Staff members are also encouraged to set goals, not only for their professional lives, but their personal lives as well.

“CleanTurn and 180 Demo are proud to have team members who have reunited their families, found stable housing, and followed their path of sobriety and recovery, all while learning cleaning or demolition skills and providing a valuable, marketable service to our customers,” he said. “For some of our staff, this is their first real chance at stable employment and career growth, and knowing that someone believes in them can be the motivation they need to pursue growth and set goals for them and their families.”

Although Stiers says she takes one day at a time, she has set goals for herself that include buying a house and eventually owning her own company with a similar business model as CleanTurn.

“I want to be that inspiration for not only my children, but everyone else around me, too,” she said.

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