Vital CQ community group for the socially isolated needs our help
WHEN there is work to be done, Jim Lawler says life has meaning and purpose.
Finding work for idle hands to overcome social isolation has been the focus of Mr Lawler's efforts for the past seven years since he helped found Rockhampton Men's shed.
Started originally in the mid-1990s from the 'shed in a backyard' scenario where a man would go and carry out tasks, such as restoring furniture or fixing lawn mowers, the strategy allowing all ages to socialise and discuss their feelings and well-being has snowballed into over 900 Men's Sheds throughout Australia.
From a humble beginning with seven founding members, the Rockhampton Men's chairman Shed Mr Lawler, 74, said the small not-for-profit organisation has gradually built itself up to its present membership of 50 men and women.
"It was started by a group of retired guys who wanted do something for the community,” he said.
"There's a lot of guys out there getting retrenched and were having difficulty adjusting to life after work, they feel like they still have more to contribute and a lot of them fell into depression.
"We're a support group, we support each other by working together.”
The members tell Mr Lawler they were grateful to have somewhere where they felt comfortable where they have forged new friendships for life.
He said the Men's Sheds performed a vital role not only in allowing isolated people to socialise but have a meaningful role in contributing to the community.
"We do metal work, wood work, welding, we've got an arts and crafts section, we do IT stuff and some of the guys have a regular card morning over at the sheds,” Mr Lawler said.
Mr Lawler said although it was called the Men's Shed, they welcome women into their organisation to be involved in their "lady's auxiliary” who do a lot of work in the arts and crafts section.
"They do paintings, ceramics and pottery,” he said.
"The Iwasaki Foundation have been very generous to us by donating a kiln to fire the pottery in.”
He said the Men's Shed did a lot of work to help the disabled members of the community.
"We make a lot of ramps for people with wheel chairs so they can get into and out of their houses,” Mr Lawler said.
"Some of the guys have independent jobs that they do themselves and we make stuff to sell to keep the shed going.”
Another worthwhile community project Mr Lawler said they had undertook last year was building buddy seats at Frenchville School.
"If you get a new kid in the school, they go an sit on the buddy seat and then the others know they need to be supported and the kids go and make friends with them,” he said.
After the original Men's shed was devastated by cyclone Marcia in 2011, Rockhampton's Men's shed was relocated at CQUniversity's northern campus.
Due to size constraints and with the university planning to demolish the old shed to make way for a new building, Mr Lawler said the time was right to start working towards constructing a new upgraded Men's Shed facility.
"The university sat down with us and identified that we are unable to expand any more because of the size of the building we're in, we can't really put on any more new members,” he said.
"We just keep running into one another around the benches.
"The university have been very kind, they're assisting with some land that we're hoping to put together and from that we will build three sheds.”
The ambitious multi-stage project would see one shed for metal wood work, one for administration and community arts centre and one of a men's shed and gym.
Jim said they were hoping to commence construction by July 2018 but in the meantime would need to raise approximately $450,0000-$500,000 through fund-raising, community grants and government funding.
Politicians and interested members of the community were invited to attend next week's grand unveiling of the master plan for the new proposed Men's Shed complex to learn how they could pitch in to help realise this great venture.
Where: Frenchville Sports Club (The Keppel Room)
When: Thursday 14 September 2017 9.30am - 11.30am
Details via: www.rockhamptonmensshed.org.au/ firstname.lastname@example.org or 0412 296 014.