So how do you join a Men’s Shed?
The Shed sounded out Men’s Shed North Shore trustee Bernard Gardner on the selection process for prospective members. Turns out that it’s less stringent than NASA’s astronaut programme.
The Shed : Who is the right kind of person to be a sheddie?
Really? Surely you’d have to have some basic DIY skills at least?
Not even that. Different people get different things out of it. We have some members who just come in for a coffee and a chat at lunchtime and they’re every bit as welcome as the next guy. It’s a second home for some people and that’s fine.
The majority of members in the workshop today seem to be former tradesmen.
Maybe tradies are more likely to know about the Menzshed [movement] already — and they know that they’ll find the tools [that] they used professionally in our workshop. It’s a seamless progression for them. That’s probably half the membership but we get people from all walks of life. I can think of business people, architects, IT people, and we have people on the board who were business people, project managers, and accountants. I guess you gravitate to what you know.
Is it just for retired people?
Most members are retired or semiretired and that’s where the idea came from — to help retired people stay active and do something useful — but we do have younger members as well. It’s pretty handy for people who don’t have the skills or tools for a project but are taking it on anyway. It’s a great way to get some experience and guidance, maybe avoid some mistakes, and get some free help. We’ve had one young guy fitting out a van with a bed in the back and several guys pitched in on that one.
Do you get people joining who have no hand skills at all?
We get people come in who just want to help out and that’s fine because we can always find something they can do, even if it’s just painting, until they gain more confidence.
Do people get a mentor to help them?
It’s not that formal, but if they are helping out there will be someone keeping an eye on them. For some people, helping out is just the thing you do between the real business of the day — having a natter. There’s no pressure so there’s always someone who’s got time for a chat. If pushed, I’d say [that] the minimum requirements would be the ability to boil a kettle and have an opinion on something. They are some of our favourite people.
So what does it cost to join?
Well we have costs to meet. Our expenditure is more than $20K a year … It’s an annual fee of $90 a year. Our shed’s open from 9am to 4pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and 9am to 2pm on Fridays and Saturdays, but you have to give yourself time to clean up and pack away.
Has a woman ever asked to join?
Bernard: Actually, we have five women members already. As I said, this shed is for everyone.
Larry Klassen: And let’s not forget the women who turned up here with their husbands and got them to sign up. Actually, we did a survey of members a while back asking them if we should go from opening three days a week to four. We had quite a few members’ wives respond saying yes, definitely!