Bowral Community Men’s Shed
a place to learn new skills, share expertise and socialise
UnitingCare Ageing (Northern Sydney Region) & Bowral Uniting Church
Wingecarribee Health Association for Men (WHAM), IMB Community Foundation, Ace Internet Services, Wingecarribee Shire Council, Wingecarribee Health Service, Australian Government (Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs)
In August 2002, Wingecarribee Health Association for Men (WHAM) convened a meeting of local organisations and welfare agencies to plan a community project called ‘The Shed”. The aim of this project was to provide a venue where men could come and share a variety of tools; pursue their interests in pastimes and hobbies; spend time with fellows of similar interest; learn new skills, use tools for the first time or keep old skills honed and productive.
Over the next few months, a proposal was developed whereby the Bowral congregation would be the host by making available the use of an old double garage and shared use of the Church Hall basement. The NSW Synod through its agency, UnitingCare Ageing (Northern Sydney Region), made establishment funds available, by way of an interest free loan, while grant money was being applied for.
Early in 2003, with the approval of the Bowral Church Council, a working party of community and church volunteers met regularly to clean-out; line and fit out the garage as a safe and secure activity centre. Peter van Dort from WHAM acted as Supervisor and Facilitator.
Regular weekly “Shed” activities commenced on 6 March 2003. The official opening took place on Thursday, 12 June 2003, and was a great occasion. About 110 people were present, including a number of dignitaries from government, commerce, community and the church.
Although ‘The Shed’ had only been operating for a short while, it was apparent that the programme would benefit greatly by the appointment of a Coordinator to oversee activities and attend to administrative matters. Jeanette Frangoff was appointed to this position in October 2003, and through her dedication and drive and the support of the membership, this community project has gone from strength to strength.
With the establishment of a computer recycling centre and a steadily increasing membership, the old shed was unable to meet the needs of the project. On 27 October 2005, the Bowral Church Council approved the construction of a larger workshop style ‘Colorbond’ steel framed building on the Church grounds. By a mutual arrangement, this project would be jointly funded by UnitingCare Ageing (Northern Sydney Region) and the Bowral congregation, from its Mission Account. The Shed members readily accepted this offer, and agreed to be responsible for the fitting out of the new facility, and the removal and relocation of tools and equipment when the time came.
Mr. Ken Adams, then Chairperson of the Bowral Church Council, agreed to act as project supervisor. As plans and specifications had already been approved and contractors arranged, an immediate start was possible, preparing the site for laying of the slab. Construction of the shed proceeded reasonably well despite some delay caused by the need to rectify a builder’s fault and await replacement of materials stolen from the building site.
The hand-over of The Shed took place in March 2006, and over the next several months The Shed was a hive of activity. Work on the fit-out included lining, installation of workbenches and machinery, painting, and provision of telephone and computer services. In order to get things shipshape for the official opening in September, the members began working on Tuesdays, in addition to their regular meeting day, Thursday each week. Thus the Shed became a two-day-a-week activity.
The new ‘Shed’ opening celebration was on 21 September 2006 and the programme was in the form of an ‘open day’ where the community could inspect the new facilities, equipment and the members’ handiwork. Refreshments were served, and a short formal ceremony followed. Dignitaries present included Member for Hume, the Hon. Alby Schultz, MP, Chairman Russell Frederickson and Wingecarribee Mayor, Gordon Lewis, who officially opened the new building.
In August 2008, approval was given for the construction of a small shed on the northern side of the Men’s Shed to house the Computer Recycling and Training Centre, which has become quite a significant part of the activity programme. The Computer building was funded by the Bowral Congregation, and was erected by a team from The Shed. The rebuilt computers are distributed throughout the shire and overseas to the underprivileged. Also, both hardware and software training courses were planned and conducted for members of The Shed and returned soldiers and seniors in the general community. This was achieved with funds provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs to purchase new computers and pay for a trainer, and a grant obtained through Wingecarribee Shire Council to purchase a data projector.
The latest initiative is the transformation of the original Shed (a double garage) into a metalwork workshop. This is an important inclusion in the activities of the The Shed, and will provide the metalworkers with a dedicated and safe work place. Further, it will preserve a vital part of The Shed’s history. Members are working apace to connect three-phase power and communication lines, and fire-clad the building to meet current fire regulations. It will be ready for occupation for the 2010 winter.
In summary, the Men’s Shed priorities are to work on individual and community projects and also on paid jobs in order to raise money to assist with the financing of the activity programmes. The Shed is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8.30am to 1.30 pm, on the Uniting Church grounds, the corner Bendooley and Boolwey Streets, (enter via Boolwey Street). For further information, call the Co¬ordinator: Jeanette Frangoff on (02) 4862 5285.