“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree long ago.” Warren Buffett
By Mary O’KEEFE
There is a family business in the Crescenta Valley that has taken the idea of planting a tree, figurative and literally, to heart. Many may not notice the people who are seen walking quietly down Honolulu Avenue cleaning up after Oktoberfest or the Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade. They may not notice that Relay for Life of the Foothills has raised over $1 million since it began in the Crescenta Valley. And some may not realize that, during the Glendale Homeless Count, each person approached was given a backpack with personal essentials.
These acts of kindness and many more philanthropic outreaches are done by a local family and their business. They do not call attention to themselves and they support their community and beyond in a gracious manner. It’s the Waldheim family and J’s Maintenance.
For 50 years, J’s Maintenance has been in the business of commercial janitorial services. But this family-run company has done much more than survive for 50 years; they have thrived and built a loyal staff, some of whom have been with the company for over 30 years.
Building this business was not easy. From the beginning it was a family affair. Ed Waldheim and his wife Linda worked hard to establish their business with their children Chris and Michelle alongside.
In those early days J’s had the maintenance contract for Levitz Furniture stores. They had the contract for all Levitz stores, which meant a lot of traveling. So Chris and Ed boarded a motorhome and went from store-to-store to supervise their employees, making certain everything was just right.
Chris was actually born in Argentina. The family moved to the Eagle Rock/Glendale area in 1971, then to La Crescenta in 1987, Sunland in 1991 and then to Glendale in 2005. The Waldheim family knows this community because they have been a part of it since coming to the U.S. Chris graduated from USC with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Though he has been on the payroll with J’s since 1980 this company has been in his heart since birth.
J’s Maintenance started as a commercial janitorial company but has expanded into home care with their J’s Maids service. One employee who has been with J’s Maids for a very long time is Antoinette Schwartz.
She was a friend of Chris’ then-girlfriend, now wife, Lena Waldheim. Lena was working in a dental office and told Schwartz her husband was going to start a home cleaning service. At the time Schwartz was a stay-at-home mom but wanted to work outside the home.
“Back then we didn’t have computers so all invoices were done by hand,” she said of the beginning of J’s Maids.
She had never done that type of work and needed some guidance.
“Chris taught me how to clean,” she said. “He would take time with me [to teach me].”
She said she stays because she feels that she is part of a family.
“We care about others, and we don’t jump from one customer to another. When we lose a customer it feels like we have [lost] a part of our family,” she said.
J’s Maids has grown to about seven crews, with three employees per crew.
“I have cleaned a lot of bathrooms in La Crescenta,” joked Schwartz.
The reach of the Waldheims goes beyond clients and employees, and that is what is so inspiring about a company that shares its success with its community.
Chris has been on the boards of almost every organization in the Crescenta Valley including the Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade, Relay for Life of the Foothills, Oktoberfest, Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce, CV Fireworks Association, Leadership Glendale, Chandler School in Pasadena, the YMCA of the Foothills and Mary Pinola/CV Chamber Educational Fund.
But beyond sitting on boards of directors, Chris is a boots-on-the ground volunteer. Not only does he donate backpacks to the homeless but he goes on the Glendale Homeless Count; for years he walked the 26.2 miles of the Los Angeles Marathon with Mary Pinola to help raise funds for her scholarship and grant program. He is also a partner with the Home Depot Foundation that builds/remodels houses for under-served families.
To prove that children learn from observing, Chris’ dad Ed has been an example of boots-on-the-ground support for years working with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of the Foothills. He, along with his second wife Linda, walks the talk as he has rounded many laps to raise money for this important cause.
The Waldheim family has proved that having a successful business and supporting your community can go hand-in-hand.
J’s Maintenance has served the Y for about 15 years but it is how Chris has become part of the Y family that has made a difference. When asked how important this relationship is to the Y family, Wright said, “Immensely important. Along with all the other items mentioned, Chris and his family are beloved by our staff and our board. He’s been a true friend to me and I’m so incredibly appreciative of him and his family’s support of our Y.”
The Waldheim family and J’s Maintenance has been recognized by organizations, cities, LA County and on the floor of Congress when Representative Adam Schiff read a letter into the Congressional Record on Sept. 11, 2019 praising them.
To read the letter, visit page 13.