Once Des Milne retired, he didn’t think his collection of hammers and drills would be the tools to get him off the couch and engaged in a social activity.
When Des and his wife Sandra downsized and moved into the ECH Encore Apartments in Modbury, South Australia, two years ago, he brought with him his collection of tools he had built over the years from being a tradesman.
Des decided to donate the tools to the ECH Encore Community Workshop as well as offer Tina from Echoes Montessori, which is part of the complex, to contact him for any projects.
“Through ECH, we were able to get some peg boards and work benches, and I got all my tools tagged and tested,” he says.
“Then one day, Tina asked if I would be interested in helping to assemble some pieces and do some handywork as part of the men’s shed.”
And from then on, Des, alongside his fellow resident Barry, have been kept busy building, fixing and assembling pieces for the Montessori as well as for residents of the complex.
A men’s shed is community-based and provides a space for men to come together for various activities, socialisation and personal projects.
Its primary goals are to promote social interaction, combat social isolation, improve mental health and offer a sense of purpose and camaraderie to participants.
Since his involvement in the men’s shed, Des and the other three men, have come together and help build not only items and toys, but friendships too.
“We’ve built a range of things for the kids – they had some timber so we helped build a little bridge, we’ve made a timber frame and put mesh over the top and painted it so the kids could play with it. We’ve also cut old floorboards into different lengths and the kids use that to run their cars on,” he says.
“At the Montessori, the kids come and help, and we have a play. When we’ve built something for them, we have a reveal day and the kids just love it,” he says.
“It’s good for the kids to get to know the older generation. It’s nice to sit and talk with them; you make them feel part of it. You don’t know if they have grandparents here, so we are the stand-in grandparents.”
To mark International Men’s Day on Sunday 19 November, ECH has recognised the group’s contribution to the men’s shed, as well as their efforts to help the residents of Encore Apartments.
Des says she feels a sense of accomplishment being able to assist others.
“I like using my knowledge and just helping people. I’ve been doing it for years – I used to do that at the church – helping anyone who needed anything repaired.”
“When someone needs something repaired in the building, I’m happy to help out – I’m always up for a chat and a cup of coffee,” he said.