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Now in a bigger space, Men’s Shed Vernon opens door to women

Now located on Meadowlark Road, members are gauging interest for a Women’s Shed in town
Men’s Shed Vernon president Ray Verlage addresses the crowd at an open house at their new headquarters on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Now in a bigger and better space, Men’s Shed Vernon is in a position to expand — and women in the community could soon be getting involved.

The Men’s Shed is a place for men to get together for activities like woodworking and metalworking, on top of running community projects. There are currently about 2,800 Men’s Sheds in the world.

The local group leased a former bulk station on Meadowlark Road at the north end of town last August. Since then they’ve renovated the space into a workshop much bigger than their old headquarters.

At an open house Wednesday, April 13, members were invited to bring along their spouses, and about 30 women who have helped get the Men’s Shed up and running were invited as well.

They were in for a surprise. Men’s Shed Vernon president Ray Verlage concluded a speech at the shop with an invitation to the women in attendance.

“Women’s Shed’s are popping up rapidly, in many cases in the same space (as the Men’s Sheds). Today there will be a sign-up sheet for expressions of interest if any of you want to start a Women’s Shed Vernon in this space. We will move over and welcome you,” he said.

The new space is large enough to accommodate the Men’s Shed’s roughly 100 members.

Since opening in 2018, Men’s Shed Vernon has completed between 60 and 80 community projects for local non-profits, said vice president Mike Nolan. They built sturdy outdoor benches for the Allan Brooks Nature Centre, tables for a Shuswap youth camp and did renovations for the Mackie Lake House, to name a few projects.

Currently they’re helping O’Keefe Ranch with its new ‘glamping’ initiative, and are making display boxes for the Museum and Archives of Vernon. They have also come on board to help Vernon BMX rebuild and repurpose hundreds of recycled trophies for their 2022 season.

“You name the non-profit society in town, we’ve helped them out,” Nolan said.

You don’t have to be a woodworker or metal worker to take part; the Men’s Shed can also be a space to casually spend time and get to know other people, Nolan said.

“Since we’ve started this up we’ve had approaches from a number of women in creating a women’s shed or sharing the space for what we call a She Shed,” Nolan added. “There’s a number of them around the world already…we’ve always been open to that and knowing that once we got set up that time would come.”

The time for a Women’s Shed in Vernon may have arrived — all thanks to foundational members who helped get the Men’s Shed on its feet.

In his speech to the attendees, Verlage took a long emotional pause after mentioning the name of Jim Popowich.

(Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

“Some of you may be familiar with the Jim and Laverne Popowich Foundation in town,” he said, referring to a foundation that has donated heavily to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, local nature centres and other groups. “They’re givers. They taught us how to give.”

Verlage described the time Jim Popowich walked into the original Vernon Men’s Shed to get some woodworking done.

“He heard about these crazy guys meeting down in a storage facility somewhere with no plumbing and no heat. He walked in the door and he saw a bunch of us hanging out there. He watched for a while and then looked at us and said, ‘your hand tools suck.’”

Jim left immediately and came back in an hour with an armload of professional Makita tools.

“He dumped it on the table and he said, ‘there will be more,’” Verlage told the crowd. “And the giving just kept coming.”

Jim passed away suddenly four months ago.

“This room in large part is because of Jim. He paid for all the improvements, all the electrical, everything.

“He was a remarkable guy.”

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Brendan Shykora
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Members of Vernon Men’s Shed helped Vernon BMX rebuild and repurpose hundreds of recycled trophies for their 2022 season. (Submitted photo)

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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