BUSY HANDS: Dave Churchyard and Rob Houston with a 30-year-old garden bench restored for its owner by Coffs Harbour Community Men's Shed members.
BUSY HANDS: Dave Churchyard and Rob Houston with a 30-year-old garden bench restored for its owner by Coffs Harbour Community Men's Shed members. Belinda Scott

Mens Shed members work for love of it not the money

CREATING a replica Viking longship, giving new life to an ancient rocking horse and producing rustic furniture are all in a day's work for Coffs Harbour Community Men's Shed members.

With building work beginning on their new home in Howard St, shed members are looking forward to a new era of challenge and opportunity.

And no-one is looking forward more keenly than manager Robert Houston.

The energetic retirees' volunteer work is helping to power the men's shed into its new premises.

"I work about 50 hours a week and don't get paid a cent but I love it." Mr Houston said.

Robert is saving the community group the cost of a paid co-ordinator, which is rolled into funding the new building.

The shed, which caters for men of all ages, is paying commercial rates to lease industrial premises in Marcia St, so the move to its own shed will also free up much of the $3500/month running costs.

Mr Houston didn't plan to become a full-time volunteer, he simply gave up looking for paid work as a senior job seeker.

He had applied unsuccessfully for hundreds of jobs and was at a loose end when he wandered into the men's shed, became a member and got hooked.

"I drove past and saw all this lovely woodworking machinery, so I came in. A year later I was running the place."

He jokes that happened because he was the only one who knew how to turn on the computer but it's obvious he has the right skills set for the job.

The Coffs Harbour group has about 80 working members but 300 on the books and a voluntary management committee, headed by president Dave Churchyard. Members work on their own projects and repair jobs which support the shed.

Some jobs come with haunting stories, like a miniature Viking ship Rob made for a man whose friend died. He spoke of wanting a Viking send-off so his friends planned a Viking chieftain's funeral for his ashes.

Mr Houston made a 1.5m replica longship, which he tested for seaworthiness in his bath tub. On launch day, those out at sea setting the boat alight spotted fins and feared sharks, only to find the Viking ship being circled by a pod of dolphins.

The swell put out the flames and returned the craft to shore, where the longship and its cargo roared into flame atop a beach bonfire.


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