UNDER THE UMBRELLA
Nonprofit Agency Providing Seniors Citizens & Disabled Low-cost Home
Maintenance and Other Support Services
Too many people Mary Donohue knows sold their homes and moved into
apartments because they needed relief from the demands of maintenance.
She didn't want to go that route.
"I'm a person that likes to be independent," said Donohue, who is 78.
"The things that I can do myself, I do myself -- like dusting, ironing
But a bad back makes it impossible for her to rake leaves, shovel snow
or mow the lawn, the kinds of physical chores that come with the
territory of home ownership.
She found the help she needed when she saw an advertisement for Umbrella
Senior Homes Services Ltd. in a local newspaper. Her son bought her a
membership as a Christmas present.
One of the most common reasons elderly and disabled homeowners move out
of their homes is that the house becomes, "to much to handle" both
physically and financially. That's where Umbrella comes in. By helping
its members to maintain and safely live in their own homes, Umbrella is
helping them keep the two things they cherish most . . . their homes and
Senior Helping Seniors
A significant highlight of the Umbrella program is its use of senior
citizens as repair people. Younger, more active retirees are involved
in providing services. Using younger retirees as the primary workforce
also helps to make Umbrella effective and affordable. Our handypersons
have the skills! Some have more than 30 years experience in various
trades. Equally important, because most only work to supplement their
income, they are able work for less.
Emergency assistance is just a phone call away-- 24 hours-a-day -- seven
days a week. If a pipe bursts, a window breaks or the furnace won't
start, trained Umbrella staff are ready and able to help correct the
problem. In fact, handymen are sent to the members home within 90
minutes being called.
There were 3.2 million people over 60 years old in New York State,
according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But that age group is expected to
grow as the baby boom population ages, according to Tom Gallagher,
spokesman for the state Office for the Aging. There are several
state-run programs that help seniors with energy costs. Programs like
Meals on Wheels deliver food to older people in their homes, and home
health aides provide a range of medical and nursing assistance. But
Gallagher said he was unfamiliar with any other agencies in the Capital
Region that help seniors stay at home by providing simple maintenance
help at reduced prices.
"Many of the elderly today prefer to remain in their homes in the
neighborhoods they have lived in for a number of years,'' Gallagher
said. But without assistance like that provided by Umbrella, they often
wind up in nursing homes.
Making Quality Affordable
Work performed by Umbrella handypersons costs only $8.00 an hour. Work
done by Umbrella's licensed plumbers costs $25.00 per hour. Generally,
work is completed in three hours or less. All work by Umbrella is
backed by a 1-year labor guarantee. Time and material charges are paid
directly to the repair person by the homeowner.
Routine maintenance work is identified and prioritized as part of a
written 17 point home inspection reports done at no cost for every
Umbrella member once a year. The emphasis is always on prevention.
"Our goal is to fix small problems before they mushroom into major
repairs, Byrne said, adding what makes Umbrella different, is that if a
repair is needed, members can use anybody they want to do the work. We
not only help homeowners to decide their home maintenance needs and to
budget for them, we often help them in evaluating estimates from
contractors if major repairs are needed," Byrne said.
A membership in Umbrella costs between $100.00 and $250.00 per year
depending on the size of the home and the annual income of the
homeowner. Some of the services provided include: lawn care, snow
removal, light carpentry and plumbing, painting, transportation, grocery
shopping, housecleaning and window washing, to name but a few.
Promoting Safe and Independent Living
The peace of mind that Umbrella brings to its' customers is the result
of more than high quality repair and maintenance services. "Just as
homes are adapted to meet the needs of a married couple, or a growing
family, we're working to make sure homes meet the changing needs of the
seniors citizens who live in them," says Robert Costanzo, founder and
executive director of Umbrella. The modifications can be environmental
and as low-tech and as simple as removing items stored for years on
basement stairs, using higher wattage bulbs and installing grab bars in
For Byrne the underlying mission is one of support. "The thing we do
most of all for people is give them some peace of mind," he said. "We
make sure the house is safe and secure 24 hours a day, seven days a
Founded on Long Island in 1988, currently Umbrella serves more than 1600
households in New York State. Locally, Umbrella serves 200 homeowners
living in Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. The
Umbrella home page is located at
Umbrella's offices are located at:
1374 Parkwood Blvd.
Schenectady, NY 12308
Voice - 516-346-5249
Fax - 516-346-3564
Email- fbyrne at ix.netcom.com