Menzshed no flash in the pan

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Founders...the force behind Timaru's Menzshed, Graham Taylor, left, John Cook and Adrian Hall. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

Nearly a year after starting, Timaru’s Menzshed has gone ahead in leaps and bounds with membership reaching 74 but now it’s a case of digging in.

“We’ve covered a lot of ground very quickly and the essential part now is solidifying our position and building on it,” one of the founders, John Cook said.

“We don’t want to be here now and gone tomorrow.”

The Timaru Community Menzshed operates as a place where men can gather, talk, get down to some hands-on work or just relax and enjoy the company.

“We had the germ of the idea in November 2017. Adrian (Hall) came through Ashburton and spotted a sign ‘Menzshed’ and we decided if they could have one there, why couldn’t we have one here?

“Early in February last year we had a public meeting to discuss it, thinking 35 to 40 might be the number to move it forward.

“Eighty five turned up and 20 signed on the committee that night.”

Soon after they managed to secure premises in Shaw St, Redruth, on generous terms, although an extensive refurbishment was required.

“We had what you’d call a soft opening in July and we signed 30 members that day, and then building from 50 to 74.

“It’s been nice steady growth and by the end of March we’ll know if the members will continue.

Chewing the fat…Smoko time at Menzshed last Thursday. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

“We have 30 hard-core members who are here regularly.”

People from all age groups attend although they average out at about 70.

“We don’t want to be seen as an old man’s group; we want a mixture. It appeals to guys who are fed up sitting around at home, who want something to do and someone to interact with.

“You can do what we do at home but you don’t get the banter and the social side of it.

“It’s not about old people or needing to have a skill. Some members just sit and have a smoko.

We want to keep people connected; that’s the most important aspect.

“Some guys do have other issues but they find it is a safe place here.”

There have been Chinese members also who came to learn and improve their English speaking skills.

Funding from the Lions club, members’ subscriptions, grants and donations have kept it going.

Many of the tools and other gear has been donated, often by people passing by travelling to the dump. Instead of tools getting thrown out, they go to the Menzshed.

A wood workshop is fully operational and a metal workshop is in the process of being established.

Mr Cook said specialist clubs existed but the difference with the Menzshed was that instead of meeting just once a month, as many clubs did, they were open three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“There are plenty of other types of activities but we seem to have found a real niche and filled it successfully,” Mr Cook said.