continued “They key to this is seniors helping seniors,” Neary said.
The program works like this: Colonie seniors pay an annual membership fee based on their annual income, and then call up the Umbrella service with maintenance they need – anything from a small job of fixing a windowpane to a larger one like building a deck. The handyman, or woman, comes to the home and works on an hourly basis, which the senior pays directly to them.
While jobs vary from home to home, about 30 percent of the jobs are structural/safety related, 27 percent is yard work and 12 percent is electrical and plumbing. Snowplowing in the winter, Neary said, is also one of the most needed jobs. Umbrella also has a 24-hour emergency line for seniors who need assistance immediately.
Finding seniors that are handy is one of the Umbrella of Colonie’s main tasks. Trustworthiness, Neary said, is one of the most important attributes. He said they perform extensive background checks on everyone who applies.
Richard Brokaw, 59, decided to work with the Umbrella of Colonie in February of 2012 when both of his parents were sick in Houston, Texas, and he wasn’t able to take care of them there. Both passed away this year, and Brokaw said he feels like helping other seniors is his way of helping them vicariously.
“It’s been outstanding. It’s such a blessing to help seniors,” Brokaw said.
In the short period of time Brokaw has worked with the program, he has worked on more than 200 jobs. Just last summer, he built three decks and repaired a furnace. He was honored with the “Helping Hands Award” for completing the most jobs while maintaining quality standards.
One way Umbrella of Colonie is different, Neary said, is that Colonie has created 14 different partnerships, including with the Town of Colonie, Citizens Bank Foundation, National Grid and CAP COM Federal Credit Union. CAP COM has supported to the Umbrella program since its start.