BUFFALO GROVE — Kohler. The advertising slogan for the well-regarded brand of kitchen and bathroom fixturees hinges on its bold look. Tom Thompson does not buy it.
“It just looks so freaking weak,” Thompson said as he watched a Kohler toilet he had just installed flush for the first time.
But Thompson, the semi-official handyman of the northwest suburbs, cannot choose what brands his clients like. He can hook up or repair pretty much anything. And this summer, he has expanded his operation — which provides all types of home-maintenance services to the elderly at low costs — to Buffalo Grove.
“I just can’t pass it up,” Thompson said of adding four more cities to his coverage area. “You help so many people.”
Thompson is working with the North West Housing Partnership and the Northwest Suburban Housing Collaborative, which fund his service, to help the senior citizens of Buffalo Grove and some of the neighboring villages with gutter cleaning, putting bookshelves up, repairing garbage disposals and just about anything that does not require a permit. Anyone 65 and older can contact the NWHP (see below) and schedule an appointment with Thompson for $10, $20 or $30 per hour, depending on the client’s income.
“Our whole mission is around helping people stay in their home and live a good quality of life,” said Robyn Sandys, executive director of the Schaumburg-based NWHP. “This program fits our mission. To know that they can depend on a service like this that’s affordable, it’s gratifying.”
For two decades, the now-55-year-old Thompson has solved seniors’ headaches around Rolling Meadows. In June, the NWHP began a new partnership with the Northwest Suburban Housing Collaborative, another non-profit that had just earned a grant from the Chicago Community Trust and wanted to use its funds to bring the handyman service to Buffalo Grove and other towns it serves.
“We’re just trying to get it going,” Sandys said of the expansion program. “Once we get busier, we do have some backup people.”
But for now, it is Thompson, trucking it from site to site, tackling the bugaboos of the suburbs. Most tasks take an hour, few go longer than two. Sandys noted that, in addition to the hourly fee, clients must provide whatever new parts or hardware their project will need, or give the money to buy them to Thompson when he arrives.
They need not show any proof of age, though.
“They don’t have to provide a bunch of paperwork,” Sandys said. “It’s on the honor system.”
On July 31, Thompson was in Mount Prospect, replacing a blue toilet with the new, “freaking weak” Kohler for Terry and Darline McKillop. Darline said the old throne had been leaking for about two years.
“I’m sure my water bill will go down considerably,” she said.
Thompson’s work for the non-profits is his side gig; he said he makes his income from younger clients who pay full price. He said he had no worries, though, about adding thousands of new elderly residents to his coverage area.
“I can handle their needs,” he said.