By the time Andrea Hancock gets a call that a shelter or children’s home needs help, bed bugs have most likely infested the sleeping surfaces. Rat feces and German cockroaches may also be part of the problem when her nonprofit, P.E.S.T. Relief International, gets involved.
Hancock provides clean bedding and pest control services to the most at-risk communities, both in the U.S. and abroad. She helped people transform filthy sleep surfaces into clean bedding in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and as far away as Honduras. After people receive her help, they can sleep a little more soundly.
“Going to sleep at night in my comfy, cozy bed and feeling safe and secure, and wanting to do that for others who are destitute and vulnerable is what gets me up in the morning,” said Hancock.
In 2013, Hancock went on a mission trip to San Pedro Sula, Honduras to volunteer at a girls’ orphanage. While there, she saw conditions that prompted her to start her organization.
“We lifted up this mattress and you can see where a rat had eaten around the edge. We put mattress covers on their beds and made it a much more sanitary place for the girls,” she said. “They were so excited. They were jumping on their beds and they were just so happy.”
Over the last two years, Hancock donated almost 2,500 mattress encasements that are bed bug certified to senior care homes, domestic abuse shelters and orphanages. She also coordinates pest control services for 2-3 resident communities each year. When her team of volunteers come out, they eradicate pests and donate items including blankets and lotions that help underserved populations feel dignity and worth. In addition, her team provides other help such as manicures and meals.
As a mother of two boys, Hancock was first introduced to the negative impact of bed bugs on a family vacation. This led her to start a company in 2004, manufacturing pillow and mattress encasements that offer protection from the pests. She donates products that are considered “seconds” and networks with service providers in the pest control industry connecting them to those in need.
In the summer of 2023, Hancock received a call from Glenda Lehmberg, Executive Director of Certified Pest Control Operators of Georgia (CPCOGA). She was told about an apartment complex for senior citizens in Cumming where the residents all live on fixed incomes and most don’t have family nearby.
The two organized the “Day of Sunshine” event to bring mattress encasements, pillows, gift cards and notes of encouragement to all 53 units in the complex. Around 25 volunteers went to the apartments to deliver the care packages. They also had games and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs for the community.
Travis Moreland, a resident at the complex, attended the event and said, “It was a wonderful day. I wasn’t excited about going. And then I got there and everybody that was involved was doing a wonderful job. My favorite part was watching everyone’s smiles as they received their gifts.”
Hancock wants to help more people in the future by growing her organization to donate even more mattress encasements and develop relationships with more exterminators so that they can help at-risk communities including those facing natural disasters, poverty or abuse. In addition, she hopes to be part of building a much-needed foster care home in Forsyth County.
“Andrea Hancock has a heart for anyone in need,” Lehmberg said. “She has creative ways to involve people so that they feel empowered to help others. She’s empathetic and compassionate and has a heart not just for people in need, but really everybody.”
Hancock is always looking for others to join in her vision. If you or someone you know would like to donate, please visit the P.E.S.T. Relief International website.
The Everyday Heroes project is a partnership between Fresh Take Georgia, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newsrooms in Georgia.