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The spirit of volunteerism thrives during the holidays

Men’s Sheds is an informal club where retired men socialize and work together on community projects through a shared passion for building things. While men of all ages are welcome, more often than not it’s older men who seek out the easy-going camaraderie the group dynamic provides. Recognizing the mental health benefits Men’s Sheds provides its members, Victoria Lifeline has proudly supported the organization through their Health Promotion Grant program.  This holiday season, take a moment to read this wonderful story and be inspired by a community that came together to support seniors and those in need.

Colin McNairnay has a whole new appreciation for door handles. In fact, if it wasn’t for door handles, the Men’s Shed Christmas project may never have happened. Colin is part of the Neepawa Area Men’s Sheds group that formed in 2019. When the pandemic hit and everything shut down, the men recognized that seniors were impacted more than any other group. So Colin and the other members decided to do something about it, “we wanted to give the seniors in town something to keep their hands busy, something to do when they were lonely and bored.”

Together they came up with the idea of a wooden Christmas ornament for local seniors to paint and decorate. Each member of the group had a different task; one would draw the design on the wood while the others would cut out the intricate patterns with a scroll saw, sand the wood down and prime. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, they weren’t allowed to gather together anymore and had to figure out a way to do things safely, so that's where the door handles came in! Once one member finished their part, they’d place the ornaments in a bag and leave it on the door handle of the home of the next person in the assembly line.

Thanks to the spirit of volunteerism and of course those door handles, the group made almost 400 ornaments and distrubted them through the local senior resource program to seniors and children at the local elementary school. Some of the beautifully painted ornaments were then placed in a gift bag and given out at a Christmas supper for people who were alone over the holidays. What a wonderful and amazing way to spread some Christmas cheer!

Doug Mackie, Chair of the Canadian Men’s Sheds Association, said he has seen first-hand how beneficial this group model can be for the emotional well-being of men, “when they first come to Men’s Sheds, there is always anxiety. Then we hand them something to do, maybe a woodworking project or activity, and they relax and start talking. Men will open up if they are sitting side by side, shoulder to shoulder.” And in turn, Doug explained, they might open up about a health issue they are dealing with or anything else they aren’t normally comfortable talking about.

Another Men's Sheds mantra is pay it forward - they often work on projects that benefit other community members and have even made carved walking canes for stroke recovery patients in Winnipeg. Working together builds trust, Doug said, and of course, lasting friendships. Colin would agree, "the projects are great, but really secondary to the purpose of the group. It's about gathering and working on something together. Then we blabber jab about things and make some saw dust!"

If you’d like to learn more about Men’s Sheds, please visit their website.

Victoria Lifeline would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season filled with peace, joy, and above all, hope. May your coming days be merry and bright.

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