Discovering Men’s Sheds
Guest blog by Mike Jennings, Coquitlam Men’s Shed
"My search for somewhere to pursue my hobbies has turned into something a whole lot more meaningful. Through Men’s Shed, I have found camaraderie and purpose – and it has saved my life."
In the spring of 2015, someone enquired about buying the business that I had been running for 25 years. These offers don’t come by very often, so I thought that I had better take the opportunity. But in doing so, I thought, ‘what am I going to do now?’ I live alone in a small apartment, which was fine as long as I had work – travel and hobbies also kept me busy. My workshop was at work where I could quit at 4:30pm, then build canoes, kayaks, row boats and sailboats – sometimes staying to 10pm. I was often there on the weekends too. This would all end when I sold the business. I felt lost. I was about to enter the DANGER ZONE, a time after retirement when it is easy to lose your identity and sense of purpose.
One of my colleagues showed me a column in the local newspaper about Men’s Sheds, which included the phone number for Doug Mackie, the man who brought Men’s Sheds to North America.
Men’s Sheds are a place where men get together for activities like woodworking projects, cooking, bike repairs, music, and yelling at the television during the playoffs. The movement started in Australia in 2007, and since then, has grown to include Sheds in Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Scotland, and Canada. Often the Shed is a workshop, just what I was looking for.
I called and asked for the location of my local Shed. Doug told me that there wasn’t one in Coquitlam and that I would need to start one instead. So I did.
With the help of a few friends, we were soon having weekly meetings in a heritage house, at a park bench, or in a local restaurant for breakfast. At the same time, we started lobbying the town council, the local health authority and various service groups, letting them know what Men’s Sheds are all about – men’s health – and asking them to become allies in setting up a Shed at little or no cost.
During this time, we volunteered to look after a vegetable garden at the local homeless shelter. This raised our profile and our allies began to take us seriously. Our mayor introduced us to the Red Door Housing Society, who had a vacant shed on one of their properties. They told us that we could use it.
I now have access to a well-equipped workshop, a circle of new friends and meaningful projects to work on that benefit my community. Because of various in-kind contributions, all this costs $20 per year.
I have enjoyed Men’s Sheds so much that I became involved with the Men’s Sheds Association of British Columbia and I am doing what I can to help Men’s Sheds grow across Canada.
Men’s Sheds offer a low-key, no pressure environment that is welcoming for all men. Sheds are often associated with retired men, but there isn’t any age limit and we welcome people of all ages to join and learn/practice working with tools to build and fix things. But the Sheds aren’t really about what we build – they are about the connections we make and the bonds we forge, learning from each other, and helping out in the community.
My search for somewhere to pursue my hobbies has turned into something a whole lot more meaningful. Through Men’sShed, I have found camaraderie and purpose – and it has saved my life.
– Mike Jennings, Coquitlam, BC, Men’s Sheds
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