A little shop in the west end of Grande Prairie has become a gathering place for men to socialize, create friendships and share skills.

The Men’s Shed is a place for men to grab a coffee and cookies, work on projects in the shop, or socialize and play games. 

“The Men’s Shed is an opportunity for guys to just build quality relationships and quality friendships in a very neutral, male-friendly environment,” said Richard Nasedkin, founder of the Grande Prairie Men’s Shed.

Men don’t often have quality relationships outside of work, noted Nasekin, adding “often their relationships at work aren’t necessarily beneficial.” 

He said the idea of the Men’s Shed was started in Australia, where the country’s health services built sheds in parks as gathering places for men to meet and connect. 

The result was a place for seniors and newcomers to meet and socialize.

“​​It’s kind of like the group of guys that sit at the A&W,” he said.

“It’s providing the same support and friendship those guys experience, but it’s open to everybody that comes in.”

It was about 10 years ago that Nasedkin first heard of Men’s Sheds starting to pop up around the world and in Canada.

“I’ve always felt like Grande Prairie could use one,” he said. 

His first attempt would be in February 2020 but the pandemic would put his dream on hold for another two years. 

In 2022, Nasedkin launched the shed, creating one of the most diverse Men’s Sheds in Canada. The youngest member is 18 (although he recently moved away to go to school) and the oldest member 86.

He said there are about 40 members which includes men from a variety of backgrounds, including locals, newcomers to Canada, LGBTQ people, newly divorced and widowed, and men with family.  

“I think as a society, we’re moving past mental health as a stigma and we’re moving into a what can we do to improve mental health. 

“Men’s Shed is perfectly set up to help all of our population, not just men because a lot of the guys that come to Men’s Shed are coming because their wives or their girlfriends are recognizing that they need more people in their lives,” said Nasedkin.

“All of our families benefit if our men are healthy.”

Since the shed has opened its doors, he has seen friendships begin, and men gain more confidence in themselves which they return by giving back to the community and their families.

On Feb. 6, men worked on plans that included building projects and other ideas; some came just to socialize.

Lyle Wettlaufer was busy restoring his wife’s 80-year-old bench, and other men brought tools to help him. 

He said he started attending Men’s Shed because his wife told him it would be good to “get out of the house a bit.”

Stan Hildebrand worked on repairing a door and a carpenter by trade shared his knowledge with Nasedkin and Kolby Braseth, who worked on plans to make wheelchair-accessible planter boxes. They hope to produce a prototype soon and then donate some of the boxes to care facilities in the region. 

The group is also working on creating a sign for the Boreal Wetland Centre in Evergreen Park that will hang above the trailhead.

“We’re also looking at building dog houses for animal shelters, so we’re trying to find a design uses the least amount of materials possible,” said Nasedkin, noting they are trying to connect with the community and help where they can.

“When a guy comes in and is feeling disconnected, it’s nice to have something to focus on that’s community-orientated,” said Nasedkin.

Community support

Support from the community has been tremendous, said Nasedkin.

The 1,300 sq. ft. shop space and 600 sq. feet of meeting space are being sponsored by the Resource Centre for Suicide Prevention, but other donors have stepped up to ensure the space is equipped, such as the local Rotary Clubs, the Gp 100, and the Wembley Fire Department.

Mike Readman, who recently retired and moved to Grande Prairie from Dawson Creek, has helped start the book club at Men’s Shed.

He said his wife is part of a book club for women; since he couldn’t join, he suggested the idea to the Men’s Shed.

Now, a few members have joined as they begin their reading journey together.

The benefits of Men’s Sheds are spreading in northwestern Alberta. When Grande Prairie’s opened, there were six others in Alberta, but that number has grown to over 25. Now, Valleyview is opening a Men’s Shed.

The Men’s Shed is open Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. and Thursday and Saturday from 1-3 p.m. 

The book club meets on Thursdays at 7 p.m.

 By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 15, 2024 at 09:08

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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