If you’ve seen some fancy woodwork while out on the town the past few years, there’s a decent chance it’s courtesy of the Squamish Men’s Shed.
Since forming in 2016, the group of men aged 55 and up has completed numerous projects to lend a hand to local non-profit groups, ranging from a bucket-list blackboard for the Sea to Sky Community Hospice to garden gates for Garibaldi CAN Grow to a refurbished Hilltop House grand piano and converting it into a bookshelf.
Shed president Robert Goluch said community organizations can reach out and place requests.
The men will then complete as many as possible.
“We have to pare it down to what we are able to do depending on our skills, our resources, with the space that we have and so on,” he said. “We do all the labour for free, and they pay for some of the materials. If they’re in a squeeze, we try to help them out with the materials as well.”
The group’s 17 members come from varying backgrounds, with doctors, engineers, architects, a priest, and lifelong craftsmen in the mix.
“It’s pretty interesting to meet all these people of various ages and with various health conditions,” Goluch said. “We catch up and we do these projects together. When you’re working on a project with another member, you talk about personal things and health things and you walk away feeling better, happier, healthier.”
Mike Miller, who serves as the group’s director of communications, said that when he and his wife first moved to Squamish roughly five years ago, it was difficult to make social connections, but the Men’s Shed has helped foster those relationships. Outside of completing projects, there are several other gatherings. The Millers have hosted Christmas parties, while there are barbecues and monthly lunches as well.
“It’s pretty tough meeting people and it’s a great way of meeting like-minded people,” he said. “It’s just been a total positive all the way around.”
In addition to improving his woodworking “immensely” thanks to some experts within the club, Miller has also seen benefits for his public speaking skills.
“When I first joined, I was voted in as the secretary. I’m not very good when it comes to public speaking, so it’s helped me a lot, talking to a group and feeling comfortable,” he said.
In terms of crafting, the projects that both Miller and Goluch highly appreciate are the ones that benefit children, such as teaching them to make their own pencil boxes at the Brackendale Fall Fair.
“We want young children or youth to be involved in developing carpentry skills. It’s a lifelong skill,” Goluch said. “What an accomplishment for all of them. They were all very proud and very happy.
Another project that comes to Miller’s mind is when Men’s Shed members cut out animal shapes of salmon and birds for kids to paint as part of a project with the Squamish River Watershed Society (SRWS). The group later placed the finished cutouts along the trail near the Squamish Estuary.
“The kids went nuts and painted these things. It was so much fun just watching them,” Miller said. “You look at these kids and they’re so involved in these projects. It’s a lot of fun.”
Another project with the SRWS was creating a bat condo that can house up to 3,000 bats, while also putting together eight smaller bat houses.
Wellness is also a key focus for the group, as it has hosted a Health by Stealth speaker series covering topics ranging from macular degeneration and prostate cancer to funeral planning, sexuality and coping with aging.
The Men’s Shed is looking forward to expanding in the years to come as it prepares to move into the Squamish Senior Citizens Home Society’s new Westwinds development on Third Avenue. The group will have just over 1,000 square feet in which to work, nearly double the size of its existing space.
“We’ll be able to increase our membership, do more community projects and maybe offer more workshops for youth and others,” Goluch said.
Though the shed’s facilities are currently shuttered because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Goluch is meeting with public health officials to determine protocol and new policies for returning to the site and getting back to work.
“As soon as we get the green light, we’re going to be very happy to start things again,” he said. “We’ve got another bunch of community requests that are quite sizeable, so we’re quite anxious to get started on that.”