The Canadian Mental Health Association – Vernon & District Branch celebrated the addition of Men’s Shed to its programs Tuesday night at the CMHA Vernon Branch Conference Room.
Men’s Shed Vernon started two years ago by a group of senior men who saw the need for socialization and productivity for local men in retirement. This September, the group formally partnered with CMHA Vernon as one of the organization’s program offerings.
“We are excited to partner with Men’s Shed to bring greater awareness of senior men’s mental health to the community and provide a space and opportunity for senior men to thrive with purpose,” said Julia Payson, CMHA Vernon Executive Director.
According to a 2017 BC Coroner’s report males accounted for 75 per cent of suicide deaths that year. The highest age-specific suicide death rate was among 50 to 59-year-old males.
“When men reach retirement age, they often find themselves socially isolated. Men’s Shed is about connecting men to each other and to the larger community,” said Payson.
With a mission to build meaning and well-being in men’s lives by engaging hands, hearts and minds, Men’s Shed members come from a variety of backgrounds and interests to work on individual and community projects. They have built tables for a youth camp, a gazebo for a women’s shelter, refinished benches for a nature centre and refurbished a sailboat.
Members also build benches, toys and have recently been supplying a local sign maker with wooden lettering. Men’s Shed is hoping to establish a social enterprise to help fund the group.
The group has also partnered with the Vernon Community School to mentor students. One of their current projects has one of the members working with a student to build a custom guitar.
“This is important to give back and to inject some youthful vitality into the group,” said founding member Ray Verlage.
Verlage says he hopes to see significant growth over the next five years, aiming for a membership of 300 senior men sharing their skills and working together to improve their health and well-being while benefiting the community with purposeful projects.
“We want to build Men’s Shed as a destination for guys in Vernon who are really living,” he said.
Initial funding has come from the Community Foundation of the North Okanagan, a federal government grant and individual donors. Local businesses have offered support including Elephant Storage who provides free space and equipment, and Fishers Hardware who provide discounted tools and supplies.
Men’s Shed meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Elephant Storage, 6136 Okanagan Ave. For more information, www.mensshedvernon.ca.