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Local News

New program helps Will County seniors with home repairs

Senior Services Center of Will County gives residents helping hand

CREST HILL – Mike McCutcheon is a new handyman for seniors in Will County who need help with small problems – such as a leaky pipe.

McCutcheon sat Tuesday on the kitchen floor of Dianne Davis and her husband’s home at Carillon Lakes – a Crest Hill retirement community – and fixed a leaky pipe underneath her sink.

When he was done, Davis said she was glad the fix was so simple.

“I gave you a card, right?” McCutcheon asked her.

“Yeah. I’m keeping it,” Davis said.

Since late June, McCutcheon has been putting his handyman skills to use for a new program at Senior Services Center of Will County called Safe@Home. For $45 an hour, McCutcheon will visit the homes of seniors countywide to help them with small home repairs.

In one case, McCutcheon said he was invited to the home of a woman to repair her downstairs steps. They had so much dry rot, he could poke his finger through a step.

“That was a little dangerous for her. She was 92 and so if she stepped in the wrong place, that would have been harmful for her,” he said.

Barry Kolanowski, Senior Services Center executive director, said the center explored trends among seniors – those 65 and older – to anticipate needs and the idea of a program like Safe@Home came up as a high need. 

Analysis of census data and other research showed many seniors live alone at home and that many of those homes have moderate to severe maintenance issues, he said. 

While there are handyman businesses, Kolanowski said seniors are reluctant to reach out to a stranger. 

“We’re a brand people know about. People can trust us,” Kolanowski said of Senior Services Center. “If we can step in the gap and help people, let’s do it.”

McCutcheon, the coordinator of Safe@Home, said that was the idea behind the name of the program.

“Safe@Home comes out of the idea that sometimes seniors have great apprehensions about letting a stranger into their home to do repairs. So consequently, they don’t do the repairs,” he said. 

McCutcheon said he met with an advisory committee at the Senior Services Center that went over seniors’ concerns with repairmen visiting their homes. Among their concerns were repairmen overcharging for their work, asking for repairs not needed and moving furniture they would be unable to move back.

“We want it to be a good experience, not only for the person bringing the gifts and the trades, but the individual whose home they’ve been invited into,” McCutcheon said. 

Before spearheading the new program, McCutcheon said he flipped houses and spent seven years at Trinity Services doing a woodworking program. 

“We’re glad to be doing [Safe@Home] and we’re excited to have Mike at the helm,” Kolanowski said. 

Safe@Home is just getting off the ground and McCutcheon said he’s looking for volunteers who are willing to help out. He also said on Sept. 22 the Senior Services Center will have an afternoon seminar on how people can prepare their home for winter. 

For Joliet resident Pat Moore, McCutcheon’s services were affordable compared to the $90 an hour she’d pay for plumbing. 

She requested McCutcheon to help her with electrical, plumbing and carpentry work. 

“It’s hard to find someone who could do a multiple amount of things at half the price,” Moore said.

She said McCutcheon is professional with a nice demeanor, and is a jack-of-all-trades.

“If it works out, I would expect the phone to ring off the hook because there’s so many seniors that need that kind of help,” Moore said.

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