'Warmth of Wine' helps keep seniors warm

— With the cost of home heating oil rising, especially during winter, it can be a struggle to pay heating bills. For seniors without steady income, that burden can be even greater.

So on Thursday, March 1, the 7th Warmth of Wine event will raise money to help seniors strapped for cash keep their heat on.

“Even though it was a mild winter, heating bills didn’t go down. … Seniors are getting a significant cost from heat so who’s going to fill that gap? We are going to,” said Jim Quinn, director of Umbrella of Colonie, a program offered by Colonie Senior Services that’s hosting the event.

All the money raised at the wine tasting event will help low income seniors pay their heating bill.

“Anyone is eligible to apply. They send in an application and get a check,” said Quinn. “It helps to offset their heating bills. It’s a wonderful program and a great event.”

According to information from Colonie Senior Services, 33 percent of seniors age 75 and older are “income challenged” and a “disproportionate share” of their income goes toward heat.

Umbrella of Colonie might be sponsoring the evening but the yearly event isn’t the only way the program helps local seniors throughout the year. It matches Colonie seniors 55 and older with affordable and reliable handypersons and contractors to perform home maintenance tasks.

“It gives the seniors just one number to call. They don’t have to go to the phone book and try to find a contractor. A lot of times what comes with that is trust. How do you trust somebody if you just found them in a phonebook?” said Quinn.

Umbrella has about 40 handy men and women and 15 to 20 contractors on hand to help clients. Many of them are retired but still looking for a bit of work to keep busy.

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