It’s an organization that started about two decades ago in Australia and has quickly spread worldwide.
The Men’s Shed is a place where males can bond and enjoy activities like woodworking. It’s an especially important place for those who have lost spouses or family members and need that human connection.
“We set up almost like a refuge for men who are feeling out of sorts or (have) lost their partner,” said Okanagan Men’s Shed Association member Russ Mitchell. “We just give each other counselling and things like that, and it helps just being there. You can just sit and play cards or sit and talk.”
The Kelowna chapter, called the Okanagan Men’s Shed, has a woodworking centre located downtown.
“The idea is for men to get together and do guy things,” Mitchell said.
That being said, the organization welcomes any gender.
“We actually have two women members that are here,” Mitchell said. “We’re an all-inclusive society, really.”
Members of the Okanagan Men’s Shed are active in the community, completing woodworking projects for those in need.
In addition, the group’s mobile unit, which is used to travel around the Okanagan raising awareness, has some cool hand-made wood crafts for the little ones.
Mitchell is one of many members who has lost a spouse. After over half a century of being part of a couple, the grieving husband was looking for a way to fill his time and heal.
“It’s given me a sense of purpose and just a new direction in life,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is not the only member forced to overcome heartache.
“My son passed away in a rafting accident,” said Gerard Bourgault du Coudray. “He was 29 years old.”
Although he says his pain is at times overwhelming, Bourgault du Coudray has found a support system at the Men’s Shed and even a new passion for building bee housing.
“The Kelowna Museum, they’ve asked me to look into making a mason bee house for them, and this is one of them,” said Bourgault du Coudray, pointing to his woodworking project. “During the pollinating season, it will be closed and in the fall we can open it without disturbing the larvae.”
Members don’t have to be experienced wood workers.
Mike Boucher is a member who was a beginner when he first walked through the Okanagan Men’s Shed doors.
“We’ve done a thousand different projects — anything from paddleboats to bird houses,” Boucher said, adding with a laugh, “I’m retired and my wife wanted me out of the house, I think.”
Boucher recommends the organization for making friends and learning new things.
“Anyone who’s retired and looking for something to do,” Boucher said. “It’s fulfilling.”
But the Kelowna chapter has been forced to move and members are working hard to get the new digs set up.
They say the community has been great at supporting and helping with the move, but there’s always more that can be done.
“Turning out to our events when we have something and just spreading the word that we’re here” Mitchell said. “We’re a great bunch of guys that like to help with projects.”
The Okanagan Men’s Shed has plenty of community events listed on the website and the group is always looking for new members.