Grant Helping Umbrella Help Low-Income Seniors

December 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Umbrella has been awarded a $15,000 grant from Home Instead Senior Care Foundation. Grant monies will be used to provide free home safety inspections and subsidized handyperson services and home repairs to low-income seniors in Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.

According to Umbrella director Ron Byrne, one of the biggest threats to the well-being of low-income seniors is affording the help they need in order to continue living at home. “There are seniors in our community who desperately want to stay in the homes, but are finding the cost of maintaining them prohibitive. This generous grant from the Home Instead Foundation will allow us to offer hundreds of hours of home maintenance and other services to low-income seniors at a remarkably low rate, and make a dramatic difference in their quality of life. It will help them remain in their homes and communities, near family and friends for as long as possible.”

The Home Instead Foundation funding will subsidize services for current and prospective Umbrella members with yearly incomes of $17,505 or less. For these members, the cost of handyperson services, such as simple home repairs, grocery shopping, house cleaning, and lawn and garden care, will be cut in half. The cost of licensed plumbers and electricians and other professionals will also be subsidized at a reduced rate. Emergency help will be available around the clock, seven days a week.

According to Byrne the community as a whole will also benefit from the funding. “By helping seniors to live at home, we are reducing the demand for expensive out-of-home residential programs. Given that most of these programs are publicly financed, less demand means savings to tax payers,” he said. “And more importantly, we are helping to maintain the integrity and diversity of our neighborhoods, by helping members to stay in the homes they love.”

Umbrella is of the Capital District is one of thirteen organizations awarded grant funding from Home Instead Senior Care Foundation in 2014.

“Our mission is very similar to Umbrella of the Capital District, as we both help enhance the lives of aging adults and those who care for them,” said Roger H. Baumgart, Executive Director of the Foundation. “We are pleased to provide grant funding to Umbrella for making a positive difference in the safety, well-being and independence of seniors,” Baumgart said.

The Home Instead Senior Care Foundation began in 2003 with the intentional purpose of going beyond the mission of the Home Instead Senior Care franchise network. The Foundation celebrates its 11-year history of 156 grant distributions totaling more than $1.6 million to nonprofit organizations serving aging adults in the United States and Canada. To learn more about the Foundation, visit

Founded in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska, by Lori and Paul Hogan, the Home Instead Senior Care® network provides personalized care, support and education to help enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. Today, this network is the world’s leading provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors, with more than 1,000 independently owned and operated franchises that are estimated to annually provide more than 50 million hours of care throughout the United States and 17 other countries. Local Home Instead Senior Care offices employ approximately 65,000 CAREGiversSM worldwide who provide basic support services that enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. The Home Instead Senior Care network strives to partner with each client and his or her family members to help meet that individual’s needs. Services span the care continuum from providing companionship and personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support. Also available are family caregiver education and support resources. At Home Instead Senior Care, its relationship before task, while striving to provide superior quality service.

Founded in 1995 under the tenet of “aging in place,” Umbrella provides home maintenance and repair services that enable seniors and disabled adults to live comfortably and safely in their own homes. Using a seniors helping seniors model, Umbrella recruits and screens retired men and women who wish to remain active and continue using their skills. As handypersons, they are able to supplement their income and give back to the community by helping fellow seniors with basic home maintenance and other chores. The program increases part-time opportunities for active seniors looking for something meaningful to do, while helping to meet the needs of the frail elderly and disabled members of our community. Umbrella currently serves more than 500 households in the Capital District. To learn more about Umbrella, visit

To learn about qualifying for the program subsidized by the Home Instead Foundation grant, call 346-5249.

Umbrella Dedicates New Home

December 7, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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Front row from left: City of Schenectady Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo; Guilderland Chamber of Commerce President Katherine Burbank; Umbrella staffer Valerie Kulzer; Assemblyman James Tedisco; Umbrella founders and Co-Executive Directors Elaine Santore and Ron Byrne; Chamber Ambassador Margie Miller, Curtis Lumber; Ray Gillen, Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority. Back row from left: Congressman Paul Tonko’s representative Cora Schroeter; Umbrella staffers Joe Campanella, Terry Peches and John Samatulski; City of Schenectady Councilman Vince Riggi; Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation Executive Director James Salengo.








On Tuesday December 4th beginning at 11AM,  the Schenectady and Guilderland Chambers of Commerce held a ribbon cutting celebrating the opening of Umbrella of the Capital District’s new office location at 9 North Broadway in Schenectady. The ribbon cutting was sponsored by McNamee, Lochner, Titus & Williams, PC.

The new space was completely renovated by Schenectady’s Urban Initiatives Group.  ”This space is more affordable for us and it meets our need better any location we’ve ever had before ” said Umbrella co-founder Ron Byrne.  ”Our rent went down, there’s lots of parking for visitors, the building is handicapped accessible and the quality of the workspace is much improved,  said Byrne.  When it comes to moving a business that’s about as good as it gets, he added.

Umbrella started 17 years ago. The organization is dedicated to helping Capital District seniors live safely and independently in their own homes. Currently, more than 500 elderly or disabled homeowners rely on Umbrella for help with everything from routine housecleaning, home maintenance and yard work to dealing with plumbing or heating emergencies. Since Umbrella began, more than 3000 households throughout the Capital District have been served.

Umbrella is unique because it matches homeowners in need of help with handypersons recruited in large part from the retired workforce. Retirees have skill and experience, and most are looking for ways to share what they know with others. Uniting homeowners in need of assistance with retirees who want to help has been a win-win situation earning Umbrella a prestigious Met Life/Civic Ventures Encore Award in 2009, as one of the best programs in the country for people looking to do something meaningful after retirement.

Serving Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties,  Umbrella has a dedicated workforce of more than 100 retirees from throughout the Capital District.  They are not contractors, but they do have wide variety skills that can help you to maintain your home and your independence. Umbrella doesn’t do everything, but its professional staff will do everything they can to help its customers find the services they need even if not directly provided by Umbrella.

In an emergency, help is just a phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On that cheerless night when a pipe bursts, a furnace won’t start or a window breaks, Umbrella handy people are ready and able to correct the problem. What’s more, they arrive at your door within 90 minutes!

Umbrella is always looking for community and business partnerships as well as skilled retirees looking to help peers stay in their homes.  Anyone interested in getting involved should call 518-346-5249 or email for more information.

Times Union Spotlights Umbrella

January 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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Umbrella handypeople Fran Callahan and Lori DeBrino were  featured in the Times Union recently for the help they provide seniors served by Umbrella of the Capital District. Below Fran poses with homeowners and husband and wife, Paul and Joann Pagiotas at their home in Clifton Park, NY. Because of the services of Fran and Umbrella of the Capital District, the elderly are able to stay in their homes.  Click here to read the full article.

Umbrella Wins National Award

November 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Handyman Bill Gosier, 75, left, checks out the dishwasher of client Leonard Tucker, 90, in Tucker’s Albany, New York, home.

Handyman Bill Gosier, 75, left, checks out the dishwasher of client Leonard Tucker, 90, in Tucker’s Albany, New York, home.

At ceremony held at the National Press Club today in Washington DC, Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation have awarded an Encore Opportunity Award to Umbrella of the Capital District, Inc. The agency is one of eight organizations throughout the United States being honored for making it easier for experienced workers to transition into encore careers – paid jobs that offer meaning and the chance to make a social impact. Umbrella received the most votes of any organization in the nation. A total of nearly 100 organizations were considered.

Founded in 1995, Umbrella is a Schenectady based nonprofit organization devoted to helping senior citizens and people with disabilities throughout the Capital District to maintain their homes and to live independently. The organization intentionally recruits 50-plus workers with the appropriate technical skills including carpentry, painting, miscellaneous repairs and lawn care. In addition, Umbrella’s workers also help the elderly and disabled with grocery shopping, transportation and house cleaning.

The individuals who serve as Umbrella handypersons come from all walks of life.  Many are retired police officers and firemen; others are homemakers, or retirees from business and industry who enjoy and are talented at repairing and sprucing up houses.

Encore Opportunity Award Winner“This year’s Encore Opportunity Award winners are innovative, adaptable and smart — and clearly recognize the need to take advantage of the windfall of talented older Americans,” said Dennis White, CEO and president of MetLife Foundation. “These trailblazing employers can serve as a model for others to follow.”

While layoffs and hiring freezes remain the norm in most industries, experts still project talent shortages in some health care, education, nonprofit and government jobs. Meanwhile, surveys show that millions of boomers want to find encore careers where they can give back and have an impact. But finding the right fit is not always easy.

“For those in midlife and beyond, looking for a job these days is often a do-it-yourself project made all the worse by exhaustion, isolation, and high unemployment,” said Phyllis N. Segal, vice president of Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. “But some nonprofit and public sector organizations are hiring and retaining people over 50 to meet community needs – and doing so in an exemplary fashion.”

Finding skilled staff for Umbrella is an ongoing challenge according to Elaine Santore, one of Umbrella’s co-founders. “We are always looking for talented and caring people to assist our members in maintaining their homes and independence, Santore said. “These kinds of jobs are especially well-suited for retirees, who may seek reduced hours and the ability to mix work with family, travel or other activities during retirement.” “The program is very flexible; the handypeople get to choose when they work, where they work and what they want to do.” “In the long run, this kind of program can contribute to improved overall health for everyone involved. This goal is achieved through high quality home maintenance, the emphasis on prevention and the sense of connection that is inspired when seniors have an opportunity to reach out and help others in their communities,” she added.

Umbrella, which serves four upstate New York counties, maintains a pool of roughly 140 workers, called “handypeople,” available for minor home repair and housekeeping. As of fall 2009, 94 percent of Umbrella’s handypeople were 50 or older.

“The fact that the workers are older is a big part of why clients enroll in Umbrella,” Santore says. They’re served by “peers who are trustworthy, respectful, and capable – someone they can relate to.”

Clients pay a yearly sliding scale membership fee ranging from $145 to $315. When they need work done, they call Umbrella, which arranges a service call. The client pays the handyperson directly – $12 per hour.

Bill Gosier, 75, signed up as a handyperson five years ago. He had been a food services manager for 30 years and had dabbled with home repair as a side business. In his mid-60s, Gosier had taken a maintenance job at a department store chain and retired at 70. He had heard about Umbrella at the local library and joined its roster a few months after retiring.

Gosier says he enjoys the work and being able to help people. He knows he could make more if he went into business for himself, but he appreciates Umbrella’s flexibility. And besides, he says, “If I was a contractor, I’d need to hire someone to schedule my jobs for me.”

Umbrella’s model is spreading, expanding encore opportunities. Recently, the organization helped a senior services provider in nearby Colonie, New York, create its own program.

Rick Iannello, executive director of the Albany Guardian Society, a nonprofit that seeks to improve seniors’ quality of life, says he respects Umbrella’s founders for creating a necessary, innovative, sustainable service. The benefits to the clients, he says, are obvious. The benefits to the workers may be more subtle, but are just as meaningful.

“The fact that they are paid for their work is highly important,” Ianello says. “It recognizes that you as an individual have a life of skill and effort. And now we’re asking you to put that to work for older people.”

In 2007, MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures first honored nonprofit and public sector employers with what was then called the BreakThrough Awards. The inaugural winners similarly exhibited successful strategies for finding, hiring and maximizing workers over 50.

About Civic Ventures (

Civic Ventures is a national think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.

About MetLife Foundation

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its long-standing tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation has been involved in a variety of aging-related initiatives addressing issues of caregiving, intergenerational activities, mental fitness, health and wellness programs and civic involvement. More information about the Foundation is available at

Attention GE Employees, Retirees and Spouses

March 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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The GE Foundation Matching Gift Program supports GE employees and retirees in their personal philanthropy and fundraising efforts by matching individual contributions of $25 or more made to Umbrella of the Capital District by current GE employees, retirees or spouses.

To register your gift to Umbrella with the GE Foundation, CLICK HERE or cut and paste the following URL into your browser’s address bar:

Gifts may also be registered by phone using a valid GE SSO ID by calling the matching gifts Customer Support Center at (800) 305-0669. Questions may be directed to the Customer Support Center at the same number or by email to