Volunteer work ‘just makes sense’

From carpentry to computer networking to counting turtles, Paula Lomasney is willing to pitch in.
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From carpentry to computer networking to counting turtles, Paula Lomasney is willing to pitch in.

The 53-year-old Northumberland woman took a year off after her 2005 retirement from Hewlett Packard’s Saratoga Springs office, then decided to jump into volunteer work.

She’d never really been a regular volunteer before because of her work schedule and frequent business traveling.

“She called out of the blue last year before our spring workday,” said Michelle Larkin, executive director of Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, which helps seniors and low-income homeowners by doing free home repairs.

Lomasney said she was excited to discover Rebuilding Together because she’d thought about starting a similar group. “I’d been thinking about this for a number of years,” she said. “I came upon Rebuilding Together, and I thought, ‘This is a great match.’ ”

Lomasney volunteered last spring and, because of her construction skills, this year was appointed house captain on two sites, where she was responsible for setting up the sites and overseeing other volunteers.

“She’s a very skilled worker as far as the carpentry,” Larkin said.

Work on the homes sometimes involves gutting part of a house and replacing walls and floors, but other times it’s more simple.

“Sometimes there are some loose ends that need to be tied up, and I’ll finish those up myself,” Lomasney said.

Lomasney said she volunteers because she now has the time and skills to do so. “The reality is I can do it, so I’m doing it. It just makes so much sense.”

Helping people improve their homes has also been an education for Lomasney. “It just has opened my eyes incredibly that there are folks living in situations that they’re living in. They’re not able to help themselves, or services aren’t available, or they’re not aware of services.”

Since then, she’s also gotten involved in office work for the Schuylerville-based nonprofit and put her computer background to work when she saw the one-laptop computer system the organization was using.

Lomasney is in the process of getting a second laptop, adding a database program to analyze projects and networking the two computers.

And Larkin was all too happy to put Lomasney in charge of revamping the office computer system. “I just pretend I know what she’s talking about,” Larkin joked.

Lomasney is even taking the initiative to do smaller projects in the winter as needed, such as making a person’s home handicapped accessible if he has just come home from rehabilitation.

Lomasney also is active in her church, Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church, where she is helping to draft personnel policies. She also cooks for Saratoga Race Course backstretch workers as part of an English as a second language class taught at the church and hosts a coffee hour one Sunday a month.

She also is volunteering for a University at Albany graduate student’s research project on a threatened species of turtle.

Lomasney has been tracking the Blanding’s turtles with GPS in the Wilton Wildlife Preserve, setting traps and documenting the caught turtles. She joined the multi-year project, which Andrea Chaloux is overseeing for her master’s thesis, in April.

Lomasney is a Colonie native who moved to Saratoga Springs in 1981 after being in the Air Force. She lives in Northumberland with her partner, Anne Cinquemani.

Cinquemani got Lomasney started volunteering at the church. “She was the leader. I followed,” Lomasney said.

Lomasney said she’s able to volunteer so much time because Cinquemani still works. “We’re both really lucky that it’s worked out like this.”

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