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Community-minded agency aims to help seniors age in place

For Umbrella’s network of neighbors, no job is too small

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When he lived in Bellmore, James Munday would fill his free time helping his neighbors complete handyman projects around their homes. Whether it was a paint job, leaky faucet or broken appliance, he was equipped for the task. “He turned his garage into Home Depot; he had every tool you could possibly imagine,” said his granddaughter, Lindsay Ullman.

Munday’s work ethic inspired Ullman to found Umbrella, a service agency that connects seniors, 60 and older, with vetted “neighbors” to handle their home improvement jobs in an affordable and community-minded way. “Most neighborhoods have people like my grandfather,” Ullman said. “Our job is to find them and make it easy for them to connect to people who need help.”

Umbrella hosted a presentation at the Bellmore Playhouse on Jan. 15 to inform residents about the company’s services. More than 70 people attended. Ullman explained that the mission of Umbrella is to keep communities “age-integrated” by providing “members” with a network of neighbors to help them maintain their homes. The agency services thousands of members across Long Island, New Jersey and Florida; its Nassau operation, Ullman said, is the most active.

Building her business in Nassau is especially rewarding for Ullman since her parents grew up here, and became high school sweethearts at Mepham High School in North Bellmore. “This is a place where there are so many good people who want to do good work,” she said. “It’s a great consumer service built on the bedrock of a close-knit and caring community.”

Many of Umbrella’s neighbors are semi-retired professionals who are skilled in completing handy work and show a commitment to giving back to their community. They are triple-vetted by the agency before joining the network.

To find a neighbor, Umbrella members place a request via call, text or online, and choose from 50 categories to identify the task at hand. Home repair and maintenance, cleaning, gardening and other small jobs are priced at $20 an hour, and larger jobs are priced at an “as-quoted” rate, Ullman said. The agency works with a select group of licensed professionals who guarantee free estimates and priority scheduling for roofing, plumbing and other large-scale tasks. Additionally, members have access to a 24/7 emergency hotline.

For Umbrella members, no job is too small. “Some handymen won’t do a job if it’s too small, or only do it for a certain price,” Ullman said. “When they call Umbrella, our neighbors come and help with the job, and it’s taken care of at a low cost. They provide a sense of relief.”

Three of Umbrella’s neighbors spoke during the presentation to explain why they joined the agency; all three said they enjoyed helping others. Through Umbrella, Bob Tolle, of Cedarhurst, helped a Valley Stream woman set up a Gmail account, which she uses to get photos of her family and grandchildren, he said.

“When you do something like that, it’s just so gratifying,” Tolle said. “Every time that I do something for a member it makes me feel good, and every member, without fail, is so grateful to have this service. It’s a win-win.”

For more information about Umbrella, or to sign-up to become a member or neighbor, visit www.askumbrella.com or call (844) 402-2480.