Enjoy Helping Others? Consider Joining These Handy Neighbors To Work With Seniors

Umbrella helps seniors stay and live in their own homes by connecting them with community members to help with everyday tasks. Below, we ask three Handy Neighbors why they choose to work with Umbrella.

Read our previous profile of an Umbrella Member, urban shaman
Mama Donna.

To become a Handy Neighbor, visit askumbrella.com/work.

To become an Umbrella Member, visit askumbrella.com.

Photo credit: Faith Gertner


Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a senior myself and work as a graphic designer. I’m trained as a book designer and worked for Bloomingdale’s for a long time in their art department – doing posters and setting up displays.

I was brought up in Lakewood, NJ, went to school at Pratt in Brooklyn and stayed
here. I moved to Park Slope from Ft. Greene and have been there for 30-some years. Over the years I have volunteered for several different organizations and it really makes me feel part of my community.

How’d you come to be a Handy Neighbor for Umbrella and why do you do it?

I was looking around for other ways to make extra money and a friend at the senior center I go to mentioned it. The thing that drew me to them was that they hire seniors to help other seniors. I thought that was a fantastic idea.

What’s your favorite Umbrella memory/experience?

Originally, they sent me to wrap Christmas gifts and one of the jobs I’m doing now is to help a client with online photo albums. You know, scan family photos, putting them on an internet site, organizing them.

All the jobs are really varied. The adventure of meeting a new person, going to their home, helping them with something is really life-affirming.

Every person I’ve gone to is very appreciative and nice and all of the jobs are things I do in my own house…maybe not as well as I do it for them!

They’re all interesting people. They’ve shared memories with me. Some clients have me come back two or three times.

And I wouldn’t be doing this if I couldn’t just walk to someone’s house. If I can walk there, they’re my neighbor. I’ve seen clients around, through a political action group – Get Organized BK – and Good Neighbors (for people who want to age in place). I think living in people’s neighborhood…it makes people feel comfortable having someone nearby if there’s an emergency.

I could see using Umbrella in the future as a client if and when the time came.

I really like the people at Umbrella. The feedback from them is great – when I send notes, they’ll respond quickly. They’ve been considerate with my time and energy. They’re thoughtful people and considerate. I feel like I’m an ambassador for Umbrella when I go to a client’s house.

It just makes you feel good helping someone else.

Photo credit: Zack Rubin


Can you tell us a little about yourself? You’re a college student, right? That’s a little bit different from a lot of the other Handy Neighbors.

I grew up in Park Slope. I went to Franklin Ford High School (the first graduating class) and I went to 321 for elementary school. I started college a little bit later than most of my friends. I go to Baruch and study Finance and Environmental Economics.

How’d you come to be a Handy Neighbor for Umbrella and why do you do it?

I had a job but it was hard to do both school and work and pay rent and stuff, so I decided I’d do school full time. I needed to make a little extra money initially and was looking up ads on Indeed and came across Umbrella. And I like helping people a lot – I’ve always liked helping people – Umbrella is almost like volunteer work. You go help these people who need assistance. I’ve done several jobs and I really like it. It’s good work for nice people.

It makes me think about my grandma. My grandpa died a couple years ago and she’s alone at her house in Boston. She has people who come to her house and help her and it made me think these are some people’s grandparents or parents too. If they need help, someone needs to come help them.

What’s your favorite Umbrella memory/experience?

One really nice member asked me to come rake his backyard. I thought it was just going to be a little job and I get there and it was two feet of leaves throughout the entire backyard. I did it and it was great and he had me back – helped him break down some stuff, fix his door, carry some books. I ended up getting a lot of stuff done for him – he was happy about that. That was a good one.

There was a woman I took to a doctor’s appointment. It was really nice to go with her – she was very kind. She wasn’t confident going on her own and I took her and I felt like I did a really good thing for somebody. It was very rewarding.

I think Umbrella is great. I think they’re doing a great thing. One of the things I like about them the most is that they charge as little as possible. And like I said, no one’s really doing it for the money. It’s really just people who want to help out.

Full Circle, Durational Performance, 2012. Photo credit: Amy Sanford


Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was living abroad and have been in New York for about four years. I do sculpture and I do performance and video work as well. But I’ve also done a lot of handyman jobs over the years – from my own house that I grew up in to moving into an artist loft and working for other people. I like working with my hands.

How’d you come to be a Handy Neighbor for Umbrella and why do you do it?

A friend heard about them and knew that I was looking for part-time work. I used to do handyman work and thought, hey, this could be a good idea. I used to take care of my grandparents, so I understand what it’s like so it’s partially community service and the couple dollars is nice, but it’s not really a financial incentive.

What’s your favorite Umbrella memory/experience? 

I’ve only done some basic electrical work – changing a light fixture or making sure light fixtures work. It was interesting – the first person and her line of work and such – she saw people in her home so it was interesting to see the space. She practices acupuncture. And the other, we had a nice little chit-chat. It’s nice to chat with them.

I think it’s a good model in trying to help elders stay in their homes. It can be hard to find people just to do really small things. I think it’s great. Makes it affordable. And getting the word out is important. Lots of people could benefit and more people knowing about it could really help.

To learn more about Umbrella, visit askumbrella.com or call (718) 260 – 6719.

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