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Men’s Shed making fast community connections in Innisfail

Newly formed group of men burst out of the starting gate with committed agenda to serve the town

INNISFAIL – Organized less than five months ago a group of local men is now quietly but productively making small but heartfelt differences in many areas of the community.

They meet twice a month in donated space at Cornerstone Flooring & Renovations to work on community projects. Members also get together every other week at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 for “cards and conversation.

“It’s companionship for men of all ages, and to make a difference, and it’s inclusive,” said Charles Silk, a 65-year-old retired teacher and Johns Manville employee. “We have one person that's pretty much deaf. We have one person that's legally blind and one who is diabetic.

“A few of us have some limitations but we all are able bodied and able to contribute,” he emphasized. “We've got all kinds of range of abilities, and ages tend to be 50 and up but that doesn't mean it couldn't be younger.

“We have some members who sort of not know what to do with themselves,” he said. “They want to have kind of a relaxed atmosphere. But they also want to see a short-term project, and they can jump in and do it.”

They are collectively called Men’s Shed, Innisfail; part of a global movement that started in Australia in 2007 as a way to improve the health and well-being of older men. It has since expanded to more than 3,000 sheds in 12 countries.

Men’s Shed’s purpose is to support men who come together to find ways to remain productive and contribute to the community, which can then give a boost towards better overall health.

Propelled by a $25,000 grant that was put together by the town’s award-winning Community Partners in Action (CPIA) and approved under the federal New Horizons for Seniors Program, the Men’s Shed, Innisfail group was launched last fall and now numbers about a dozen members.

“I love the fact that they have so many projects on the goal and all centred around community volunteerism,” said Ellen Helgason, a member of CPIA and a recreation therapist for Alberta Health Services.

Silk is the group’s coordinator. He’s passionately mindful of the many avenues of community-giving his members have already taken, and will soon go.

“We just got more tools, and these are bigger tools like a portable table saw, hand saw, oscillating sander, drill press, and scroll saw,” said Silk, noting the grant support that funded the tools. “We've also got six wood engraving units with double pins.”

These tools will come in handy for the group’s many future projects, including wood engraving sessions to create coasters and bookmarks at the Innisfail Seniors Drop-In Centre from 10 a.m. to noon on March 1 and 8.

“There's room for 10 participants. And as far as I know, we have four signed up so far, so there’s some room left,” said Silk, adding registration is required.

With outside support, the group is in the planning stages to co-create a pair of two-feet by seven-feet raised cedar garden boxes.

The plan is to donate one to Autumn Grove and the other to the Innisfail Community Garden.

There is also another project coming that will see the creation of Little Free Libraries out of cedar and shaped like country grain elevators.

“I think the plan now is to raffle them off or somehow sell them off to somebody so they can look after them on their lawn,” said Silk, adding the group is also thinking about building birdhouses for the community. “We want to build things that we enjoy building and do things we enjoy doing, and some of that will be community-minded.”

Another community project is set for the first two weeks of May when Men’s Shed, Innisfail members will host a spring bicycle tune-up clinic that will be open for the public in front of The Leg Man on Main Street.

At the same time and place members will have a fundraiser by selling at half price brand name paint donated by Co-op.

And there is monetary generosity as well.

Men’s Shed, Innisfail and CPIA has recently donated $2,745.05 to the town’s Parks Donation and Memorial Bench Program.

The funds went towards the purchase of two metal park benches that will be installed later this year at the Innisfail Community Gardens and along 52 Avenue, west of the Innisfail and District Historical Village.

“Both locations are high-traffic areas and will benefit from the new seating for years to come,” said Steven Kennedy, the town’s director of operations in a letter of appreciation.

For more information on how to join and volunteer for Men’s Shed, Innisfail, call Silk at 587-877-8255.

Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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