Seaside Magazine Bird

A Men’s Shed – Starting up in Sidney?

by Janice Henshaw – 

What the heck are Men’s Sheds? Are you picturing an old shed in the backyard where a lonely fellow wanders out to his garden shed and doesn’t return until dinner time? Well, you would be wrong this time! Men’s Sheds are community-led initiatives that provide a safe space for men to connect, socialize and work on projects together. It is an international movement started by a woman 30 years ago in Australia – she needed a way to support her father, who was healing from a heart attack and wasn’t interested in traditional senior-related activities. The number of Men’s Sheds worldwide is now approaching 3,000.

“Men Helping Men with a little help from their friends.” Mike Jennings, past president of the B.C. Men’s Shed Association (MSA) says that men’s health is a significant issue and that there are few resources available. “But we’re not complaining about it. What we are saying is, hey, we can be part of the solution. We just need to get these Men’s Sheds going.”

Mike explains that the Sheds do not operate right in the valley of drug addiction and homelessness; they are more of a net to try and catch men before they go into that valley – or act as a ladder to help men get out. “Men’s Sheds are made up of men from all strata of society, and it’s really dumbfounding when someone who you think has absolutely everything going for them opens up and says they are having a struggle with their mental health. How on earth could they? They drive a fabulous vehicle and live in a beautiful house – but they’re just another member of the Men’s Shed. And there’s the magic. That’s the only term I have for it.”

After retirement, many men miss the camaraderie and sense of belonging they felt in the workplace. In most cases, work friendships are based on shared experiences, and continuing them after one leaves tends to be a challenge as interests and priorities change. Work is often associated with an identity, a sense of value and meaning. Fishing, golfing and reading are terrific activities, but what do you do for the rest of the day? How does one make new friends? A lack of purpose and social isolation can lead to loneliness and depression. Men often don’t ask for the help they need – a common expression is: “Suck it up, Bro!” Psychology Today explains that “Depression is like a dead battery in the car – if it sits, it doesn’t get better and only gets worse. Just as you need to push the car or jumpstart the battery to get it recharged, you need to do the same to yourself through action.” Action is what counts!

What do Men’s Sheds do? Their activities are as varied as their members. The Vanderhoof Men’s Shed Society has close to 120 members and builds docks, picnic tables, furniture, planters, wheelchair ramps, bat and bird houses and feeders. They repair small engines, household and major appliances, lawn equipment, chairs, tables and furniture. The largest Men’s Shed in Canada, with over 200 members, is nearby on Salt Spring Island. They accept building projects such as park benches, community bulletin boards, garden beds, tiny libraries, and modifications for seniors and persons with disabilities. Men’s Sheds are all about helping their communities and men helping men, shoulder to shoulder, in whatever way that may happen, be it singing, guitar lessons, cooking, networking, having speakers in to talk about men’s health – you name it – somewhere a Men’s Shed is doing it!

Landon Wilkins, co-founder of the Sidney Men’s Shed, says that men of all ages are welcome. He has found that a mix of generations can provide life-changing support. The only qualifications are respect, tolerance and understanding. For more information on the newly-formed Sidney Men’s Shed, email Landon at Or just attend the meeting – and bring a friend if you wish. Meetings are on Saturdays at 2 p.m. at the Sidney SHOAL Centre, 10030 Resthaven Drive.

Every Men’s Shed has its own story. It’s not just about what you can gain from the Shed – it’s also about what you can give! There is something extraordinary about mentoring someone, in sharing your experience and knowledge. It’s heartwarming – a gift to others and yourself.

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