The Déise Men’s Shed has marked its busy opening year at the Six Cross Roads Business Park, and the 40-strong group is looking forward to the next 12 months with enthusiasm, energy and expectation.
Willie Moore, a well-known community activist and one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Shed (along with Jim Frisby), is thrilled with the progress that’s been made over the past year – and so he should be.
On a visit to the Men’s Shed on Wednesday morning last, there’s work going on in every nook and cranny of this finely fitted premises. Be it bagging kindling downstairs, wood turning and furniture repair upstairs as well as the three indoor bee hives, whose inhabitants have yet to go into hibernation. There’s literally a buzz here, and the craic among the men who’ve made this place their own over the past year, doesn’t take too long to surface.
This is a warm, inviting and welcoming place, and it’s wholly delivering on its mission statement: giving purpose and focus to days which could otherwise be long, less than fulfilling and, in some cases, quite lonely.
“We’ve been so busy here for the past 12 months,” Willie told The Munster Express, standing in a reception room packed with many in-house woodworked creations, which creates such a brilliant first impression upon entry.
“We’ve helped a lot of schools and charities and we’ve fitted out the new offices of the Waterford Disability Network on New Street; we’d a load of office furniture here so we sent that into them; Jo (Cregan of WDN) arrived with a cheque for €300 which we weren’t expecting but we were delighted to get it at the same time. We’re after giving Skillnets timber; Ferrybank GAA Club have ended up with a fitted kitchen we got from Evoke – a dryer, a big sink, the whole lot and they were delighted with it as well – and we got a donation from them too. It’s been non-stop in the best possible way and we’re really after coming on in leaps and bounds.”
He continued: “Now, we’re after being in contact with other sheds around the country who are struggling for finance and struggling for space whereas we’re after being so lucky with the place we have here, which the O’Shea brothers, Martin and Mattie, have provided. Everything we want now, bar a few minor bits and pieces, we now have in the building. Go back just a year, when we were scraping a few bob together and look at us now: fully functional and it’s just great. And financially, I’m glad to say, we’re grand and that’s a huge plus for us.”
Willie Moore continued: “We’ve people coming out to us every week, wanting to join up. We’d a man who came out to us a few days ago, he’d lost his wife and his daughter brought him out and he was very, very impressed with the place. We’d a woman who came out to us to get a few chairs repaired and she had a look around and couldn’t get over it either; lots of women have brought furniture out to have stuff repaired and anyone who wants to have a look around here, we’re only too happy for them to see what we’re doing and how the fellas are putting down the day here. We’re open six days a week now and I suppose you could say that we’re a work in progress for the older generation in Waterford! Some of the lads have even said they hate it when Friday comes around because it’s the end of the week, so taking that into account, we’re open now on Saturdays as well, and the lads come in and tidy up, and have the chat as well. We’ve 40 men on the books in terms of those coming into us on a regular basis and on any given day, you could have between 15 and 25 lads here. Sure where would they be if this place wasn’t open? I can’t explain properly what having this place means to everyone using it, but I can tell you, I can actually see the positive difference in people.
It’s fantastic. Men in their 60s, 70s and 80s, ‘with their shoulders back and their chests out’: that’s what someone who came in for a look around said to me a few weeks back. That’s what it’s doing for people. And it’s great; all the hard work that was put in before we opened has been well and truly worth it.”
Upstairs, in an enclosed area at the back of the building, the shed’s trio of bee hives has yet to enter into their winter shutdown. “The bees are still producing honey, flying in and out getting pollen, and we got 80 jars of honey out of the first hive alone. We reckon the fact that we have them inside, in warmer temperature, is the reason they’re still producing and it’s a great attraction in its own right. To have the space to do things like this is another huge thing for us. We’ve a lot of work done with WIT when it comes to biodiversity and it’s great to be involved with them as well. We’re after building and installing ‘bee hotels’ all along the Greenway and we’re encouraging schools to buy wildflowers to encourage more biodiversity. There are so many different things going on here that sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but that’s exactly what we had in mind when it came to getting this idea off the ground.”
Martin and Mattie O’Shea, without whom this initiative simply would not have succeeded, are delighted that the unit (also home to six computers where members develop IT skills) has turned into such a vibrant hub of activity. “We were approached by Willie, Andrew (Power) and a few other lads and we visited a few around the country,” said Martin, “and we were amazed with the lack of focus there is for retired people, who may be lonely, fed up and bored. This premises was empty at time so it marked a contribution from both Mattie and myself because the Six Cross Roads Business Park has been so successful so we handed over this space for the last 12 months and will again for the next 12 months. It’s been our way of giving something back and it’s working very well.”
Mattie O’Shea added: “Last month, 20 years ago, we signed the contract to buy the site here for the Business Park, so that’s a nice coincidence given that the shed has now been here for the full year. When Willie was on the hunt for a building last year, Martin and I spoke about it and as he said, we felt we should give something back. The area has been very good to us and what made it a big plus was the finish on the building before the lads had moved in, an awful lot of work had already been done. The lads have developed the place so quickly since and to see the place so busy, and to feel the vigour, enthusiasm and energy whenever we pop in here is just amazing. And the team work here is something else, and having this here has brought a sense of routine back into a lot of men’s lives, and it’s hard to put a value on that.”
Willie Moore and his colleagues can draw considerable pride given what’s been achieved here in just 12 months. He added: “We’re just delighted with how things have gone for us. And there’s no other shed in the country that’s as successful as we are, and we couldn’t have made the progress we’ve made without Martin and Mattie. They’ve been absolutely brilliant…and the pleasure that the men coming here have got out of this, sure money couldn’t buy that.”