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Giving Back: Brenda and John Purswell, Founders of Alklean Industries, Find Renewed Passion For Community In Their Retirement

Giving Back:

Brenda and John Purswell, Founders of Alklean Industries, Find Renewed Passion For Community In Their Retirement

Written by Terri Perrin | Published July 2024

Alkean Industries' Brenda and John Purswell

 

The names John and Brenda Purswell will be familiar to many people in the pressure washing industry, especially those in Texas and those who are long-time members of the Cleaning Equipment Trade Association (CETA). The Purswells’ history in this industry dates back to 1971. John was working full-time at Exxon and had started distributing pressure washing equipment as a part-time gig to pay off some bills after their son, John O’Brean, was born. But neither John nor Brenda ever dreamed that pressure washing would become their career.

“John was never one to sit back and do nothing,” recalls Brenda. “He is an entrepreneur at heart. For the first two years, we operated the part-time business out of our garage. I handled everything to do with the office, bookings, and more. We were doing so well that in November 1973 John quit Exxon to start pressure washing distribution full-time. Our parents were mortified! But we forged ahead and bought a piece of property in Baytown, TX, to build a home with an adjacent shop.”

The 1980s’ recession hit everyone in Houston hard, including the Purswells. Many small businesses went bankrupt, but they were blessed to find a buyer. They sold their small company, rode out the recession for about 12 months, and then bought out another pressure washer distribution company on Jan. 1, 1987.

The Purswells incorporated this new (to them) Pasadena-based enterprise as “Alklean Industries Inc.” They started with four employees (including themselves) and 4,500 square feet of space. Back in “those days” women did not go to business meetings. The office ladies might be invited to attend to take notes, but Brenda had a seat at the boardroom table. She was one of the first women in distribution to start going to the manufacturer meetings and has played an integral role in paving the way for other women to succeed in the pressure washing industry.

Over the next 35 years Alklean became a highly successful pressure washing distributor. They grew to 20 employees and expanded into a 17,000 square-foot campus with four buildings. While this may sound like a Cinderella story, John and Brenda also endured unimaginable hardship.

“Our long-term vision was for our son to eventually take over Alklean,” explains Brenda. “He had started working for us as a teen and was very invested in our future. Tragically, he passed away from a massive heart attack in 2013. Our two grandsons were too young to take over, so we just kept working at it. In 2022 we decided it was time to retire. We sold Alklean to Bill Day, of Hotsy West Virginia, because we felt that he would take care of our staff, customers, and vendors in the future. We wanted our reputation to flow through. We were Bill’s 14th distribution outlet, so we knew we were leaving the company in good hands.”

When asked about “Giving Back” during their time as the owners of Alklean Industries, Brenda admits that they didn’t do anything remarkably official.

“We’ve always been very active with our church,” she recalls. “Through the church and our work, we helped individuals one on one, on an as-needed basis. And we donated to local charities, like anyone would do. But we were more focused on running the business.”

Brenda and John’s focus on giving back took a dramatic shift when, in November 2022, Brenda was invited to attend a meeting where the founder of Heaven’s Army, LaNora Purvis, was the speaker. Her testimony and passion for women in peril was astounding; it brought many to tears and gave the Purswells the desire to serve through the organization.

Purvis explained that the Heaven’s Army operated the “Home of Amazing Grace” near Cleveland, Texas, to provide a safe place for women who have been victims of human trafficking, drug and alcohol addiction, or domestic violence. It is not just a shelter; it’s a place where abused women finally find freedom to learn to gain the spiritual strength to turn their lives around.

“These women have often found themselves caught up in what seems like a never-ending cycle of abuse and self-destruction,” explained Purvis. “Most of the women who find themselves trapped in these types of situations have been raped and abused since a young age, often by people they know and trust, making them a target for predators whose only interest is in using them.”

“I was appalled with what I was learning and intrigued with the work Purvis was doing,” said Brenda. “Her presentation opened my eyes as to how bad sex trafficking is, with children as young as 8–10 years old being abused and abducted. Oftentimes it is a family member who will pimp these girls off to their hunting buddies and other ‘friends.’ I knew that I could use my management skills and talents to help the organization—and these women—so I stepped up to volunteer to serve on their board of directors.

“So, we spend a lot of time and effort with Heaven’s Army. John works as hard at this as I do, but there is only one voting member per family. He also serves on two cemetery boards, is a deacon of our church, and is head of the church’s finance committee.”

So, why do the Purswells devote so much time volunteering for Heaven’s Army, their church, and other organizations “behind the scenes,” even in retirement? “We don’t seek accolades,” Brenda concludes. “We just want to serve others. God never intended us to be couch potatoes. It’s not who we are. Anyone who says they are bored after retirement needs to get off their pity potty, flush, and then go get involved. John says he really misses his two days off!”

To learn more about the plight of women and girls lured (or forced) into the sex trade and how the good work being done by Heaven’s Army is dramatically changing their lives, visit https://heavensarmy-tx.org/

You can further educate yourself on this topic by watching the movie Sound of Freedom, available online

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