February 24, 2016 - 6:30 PM
SHARING SKILLS AND CAMARADERIE
KELOWNA - A club of retired Kelowna handymen are using their decades of collective knowledge to help the community with small construction projects.
The Okanagan Men’s Shed is a group of about 25 men, mostly retired, who have the skills but not the space to practice their trades. They are carpenters, retired electricians and computer experts, and they get together several times a week to plan and build small projects for charities and aid groups around the Okanagan.
President Art Post, 77, is one of the founding directors of the Okanagan Men’s Shed. He says the idea started in the fall of 2012 but it wasn’t until last July that they became a registered non-profit society.
“We get a request for some kind of work. It’ll usually come in from charities or nonprofits and they’ll ask if we can help out,” he says. “We don’t want to get into taking any work away from any tradesmen so when a request comes in the guy’s talk about it and decide if it’s something that would be better handled by a professional. If it’s a simple job then we try to help out.”
So far they have built cabinets, a locker set and storage for several charities in Kelowna, including senior centre Branch 55.
The work they do is important for the community, but most members do it because it’s who they are.
“For a lot of the guys, this was their identity,” Post says. “They used to be Joe the carpenter, now they’re Joe, so this is a place where they can meet up and do something worthwhile.”
The group is currently doing most of their work out of a workshop at Hawthorne Retirement Home, but Post and the other members are actively looking for a more suitable, permanent location where they can set up and take on more work.
“Our difficulty is we don’t have a proper workspace,” he says. “If we had the budget we could go and lease a shop in an industrial park or rent somebody’s garage. We just haven’t been able to find that just yet.”
The group collects a small due from each member, only $20, but that doesn’t come close to covering their expenses. They have so far relied on private donations and government grants. Post says he would welcome any offers from anybody with space they aren't using.
In the meantime, members of the Okanagan Men’s Shed will make due with what they have and keep building and fixing what they can. Besides, Post says, it’s not all about the work.
“It’s really more of a social thing,” he says. “Trying to get them out of the house and making friends. That’s the key to the whole thing; sharing skills and the camaraderie that goes along with it.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016