News & Events

Leith Park blokes get a new shed

October 1, 2018

Most blokes love their shed. Now, a newly renovated Men’s Shed and workspace recently opened at OCAV’s Leith Park village, means men won’t have to give up their shed when they move into retirement. It’s important to a lot of the Leith Park men to be able to continue building and tinkering and Barry Lay is one of the residents who has made it possible.

Barry, 81, has spent most of his life building things, especially furniture, and he didn’t want to stop when he and his wife, Vera, moved into Leith Park three years ago. They are also people who like to get involved in their local community and Barry and Vera both serve on the Residents’ Committee and Vera volunteers at Liscombe House.

Barry has helped restore the Leith Park Men’s Shed, along with fellow residents Bill Ward and Dave Whiteman, and with the support of OCAV and some local businesses. It was ‘relaunched’ recently and Barry hopes other men will become involved in activities and the social aspects on offer at the Men’s Shed.

Soon after moving into Leith Park Barry realised that there wasn’t the space to continue making pieces of furniture. He continued his long involvement with the Eltham and District Woodworkers, where he also conducts some of the safety training, but he wanted a space in his ‘own backyard’.

He and a few other residents have spent the past few months restoring the area that once acted as a social gathering space for men. They have built benches to work on and cupboards to store tools and small equipment, a ceiling now lines the shed, a new cooling and vacuum extraction systems installed and the area fitted out with new low-energy LED lighting courtesy of, Greenhills Electrics. Eduardo Abarca donated kitchen equipment.

Some of the timber used was donated and some is recycled timber from the village’s maintenance department. Barry estimates about $2000 worth of equipment and materials have been donated.

Men’s Sheds is a social program which aims to help provide community spaces for men to boost emotional and physical health.  Starting in Australia in 1998, Men’s Sheds is now a global program with hundreds of projects across the UK, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Australia and the US.

OCAV’s CEO Phillip Wohlers said the Shed would provide a space for men to make things or do other leisure activities and are about meeting other men with similar interests, sharing skills and knowledge.

“Recent UK research showed that going to ‘the shed’ leads to new friendships and a sense of belonging,” Mr Wohlers said at the Shed opening.

“The same research revealed that men felt able to open up about their health concerns and experiences because they felt they belonged to something and had other men to talk to while they worked on projects together.”

As well as a physical makeover, the Leith Park Men’s Shed will also run according to a charter that determines what can and can’t be done on the site, such as no smoking. A training and safety manual has been written to help train residents who want to learn how to make something that requires the use of any small machinery.

Barry hopes residents will want to become involved in the Shed and take the opportunity to learn how to make or fix things. But he is just as keen to see village blokes call in for a chat.

“We might have regular fix-it days or training days and times when a couple of blokes will just be working on a project of their own. But we want fellas to come along and be part of the Men’s Shed and they can determine what projects we tackle. If a few blokes want to learn how to make a chair then we could do that,” Barry said.

While Barry is keen to pass on knowledge he will still keep working on small items, such as hall tables and hall stands, to sell for charity. He is a keen supporter of the Fight MND (motor neurone disease) organisation and the Montmorency Bowling Club, where he plays regularly, recently raised $10,000 for the charity.

But he isn’t put off making big pieces. His three children now have a dining suite crafted by his hands and in recent years he made a bedroom suite for the couple’s cottage.

A lot of people at Leith Park have a lot of skills to share and Barry has high hopes that the recently relaunched Men’s Shed will become a hub for making things and friends.

"I love the fact that Rushall Park residents and volunteers are so active – contributing to life in the village. The sense of the community is strong which is why I put my name on the waiting list" - Maggie Birkett.

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