By: Jan Engoren Contributing Writer
Watching their clients head south every year for the warmer climes of South Florida, was the catalyst for a New York-based membership service company, Umbrella, to head south to where their clients are.
Founded in 2017 for people 60 and over, Umbrella helps take care of their homes by matching seniors with vetted community members, called “Umbrella Neighbors,” who help with odd jobs at an affordable rate (everything from changing a lightbulb to installing an AC unit to fixing a leaky faucet), the idea to come south was a no-brainer.
Most of their Umbrella neighbors are retired 50-60-somethings from the larger community.
“Some of our clients may have had bad experiences with contractors or are not sure who to call,” said Alexis Peschiera, a spokesperson for the company. “We are your ally. We make sure our members are happy and if the request is something we don’t do, we’ll make a referral.”
Typical requests come in for a handyman to change light fixtures, bulbs, help with yard or patio work, paint, hang pictures or help with de-cluttering and home organizing.
“Once you join, you can call any time and enjoy peace of mind,” Peschiera said.
New to Florida and its vagaries, especially after Hurricane Dorian, the company is thinking about providing hurricane preparation services for South Florida and is targeting the areas from Boynton Beach south to Boca Raton.
One service they won’t be offering to South Florida residents: winterizing homes and snow removal.
Currently, they offer a membership special in honor of their September Florida launch which includes: a start of season special, an annual home walkthrough to check systems and proactive care to check air conditioner filters, vents, hinges, etc.
Members receive a package of proactive home maintenance services, plus access to unlimited handy help for $20/hour, after the annual membership fee of $245, which includes an annual home walkthrough, a preventive maintenance visit and one QuickChore.
Boca Raton resident Gary Miano, 66, is one of Umbrella’s newest neighbors. Originally from New Jersey but living in Boca since 1981, the licensed insurance agent is semi-retired and said he is always looking for something fun and rewarding to do.
“I like to help people and doing home repair is fun for me,” he said. “When my customers like it and they smile I feel better than they do.”
Miano saw the listing on Craigslist and an opportunity to help people and get paid for something he enjoys. He was impressed with the company vetting process and says that seniors can feel comfortable with the people they send.
“Sometimes seniors want to stay in their home and need someone to trust and someone who is affordable,” Miano said. “This service fills a void.”
Miano, who can do almost everything except carpentry, says he looks out for the seniors and tries to fix things he sees that could lead to bigger problems in the long run.
“This service gives you peace of mind, a low rate and the ability to work with somebody who is a part of the community and who cares,” he said.
Miano says his values are in line with the company’s mission.
“It’s more than a service,” he said. “It’s a way to care for your community and the people in it, and make sure they aren’t taken advantage of.”
“It’s a win-win situation,” he said. “We are truly their helping hands.”
Retired middle school teacher from East Meadow, NY, Doreen Rose, 73, is enjoying her retirement. Last year she travelled to Namibia on safari and indulged her hobby of photography.
She also had hip replacement surgery and after rehab was sent home to her three-level townhome. Finding it difficult to climb up and down the stairs, Rose reached out to Umbrella after seeing an ad in her local newspaper.
She needed help reorganizing her dressers to put things within easy reach and relocating an office from her basement into a spare bedroom.
“It’s worth it” (to join the membership), she said. “The concept seems ideal; if you use their services repeatedly it’s definitely worth it.”
Rose had two men come to move a desk and a heavy TV and another woman came to help her declutter.
“She was amazing,” said Rose. “She even took the items to the Salvation Army for me.”
She’s already planning her next project. She has some painting jobs that need to be started and plans to utilize Umbrella’s services again.
‘They’re very friendly,” she said. “And ‘neighborly’ is really the right word.”
Kim Visconti, 64, also from East Meadow, NY, lost her husband a year ago.
She’s had two knee replacements and hip surgery and finds it difficult to do common household chores. A member since January, Visconti, a hairdresser, has had more than 10 jobs done by Umbrella – everything from cleaning to painting to power washing and staining her deck.
“It’s a great concept,” Visconti said. “The price is reasonable and the people they send are great.”
Fore more information visit, AskUmbrella.com/Florida and 561-475-2448.