The phone calls are coming in. Leaves need raking. Gutters need cleaning. Storm windows need hanging. And don’t forget the caulking and insulating.
At this time of year, fall maintenance is at the top of many homeowners' lists. And the Aging Partners Home Handyman Program is often a first call for older homeowners who could use a little extra help.
For more than 40 years, the program has been raking, caulking, shoveling and mowing in neighborhoods from one end of Lincoln to the other, according to Carol Meyerhoff, who directs the program for Aging Partners.
And this is their busy season.
Last year, the program handled approximately 400 hours of work during the fall months of September, October and November, she said. And in each of those months they helped out between 145 and 155 folks who were trying to get their homes ready for winter.
Pat Brancheau has used the service for at least 10 years, she said. “I couldn’t do without them.”
When the grass goes dormant this fall, she knows they will rake and clean the yard. “I provide the bags,” she said. “They do the rest.”
During the summer, Brancheau calls to have them mow the lawn, and in the past she has had minor electrical and plumbing repairs.
Meyerhoff explained that part of the agency’s mission is to help seniors live independently in their homes for as long as possible. Fall maintenance can present some problems for those who are not physically able to take care of maintenance, such as gutter cleaning or raking.
Yard cleanup tops the list of most requested jobs this time of year, Meyerhoff said. “When leaves begin to fall, our list gets longer.” Cleaning gutters, moving patio furniture and other prewinter chores also are requested.
In fact, they often are inundated with callers, so she suggests calling as early as possible. “We take the job requests in the order they come in,” she said. The weather often determines how many jobs get done. In a good year, they can work through much of November.
Payment is based on a sliding fee, Meyerhoff said.
As the calls begin to come in, the program looks to its core of “handy men and women” who help. Many are retired themselves and do this on a part-time basis.
Mel Bates is one of her regular handy people. For the past 11 years, he mostly has mowed lawns but also has done some odd jobs along the way. Retired from the Nebraska public power plant, Bates said the work “keeps him from just sitting in his rocking chair.”
In addition to that, Bates said of his clients, “They appreciate what I do, and I’m thankful for that.”
Catching him on a rainy afternoon, Bates had been mowing lawns earlier and “trying to fix a garage door.” He knows the fall yardwork will be starting soon, but he doesn’t do snow removal. “It’s just too cold,” he said.
Meyerhoff said the handy helpers are considered subcontractors, so they can set their own schedules and are paid $12.50 an hour for their work.
In addition to fall maintenance, many do small nonlicensed plumbing and electrical repairs, window and screen repairs and carpentry.