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Published 20 June 2022

In the Autumn of 2021, Aldridge Shed were contacted by the management of ‘Walsall Society for the Blind’ with a request for help. Unable to secure the services of a local tradesman at short notice, we were asked if we could assist with an art installation in their foyer. Two members of the Shed volunteered to help, and were duly dispatched with tools and masonry bits in hand.

The job in question was the installation of an acrylic tree, whose metallic leaves could be sponsored on an annual basis, to raise funds for the charity. So what seemed like hundreds of holes were drilled and plugged and the tree was installed.

During this installation, many coffee breaks were taken; it was during these breaks that we got to talk about the work of each other’s organisations and discussed how we could be of benefit to each other in the future. We also got to see their work in practice. 

Like all Sheds we have to raise funds to survive, but when the time came to discuss payment for our labours we shied away from charging (not usually a problem for our treasurer) – and to our surprise received a mild reprimand to the effect that we need to charge, or we may not be around to help them or other similar organisations in the future. So after a little debate we agreed to accept their no longer used but very serviceable, secondary indoor bowling mat (we should have checked the weight first), which on returning to the Shed we donated to our landlord, Housing 21, for use by their tenants as a thank you for looking after our premises and equipment and not charging us rent during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having discussed it briefly on our first visit, we received our next request in early 2022. This was a bigger job, the refitting out of their Tech/Communications room and the fixing down of some benches in their outdoors space. So we went to the Shed’s membership and asked if anyone was willing to be involved. Five members stepped forward and we agreed to do the job. I would say that we don’t usually take on jobs that can be carried out by local tradesmen; we feel it’s unfair as they have a living to make. However, having had no satisfactory responses from local tradesmen, in March of 2022 we installed the kitchen base units and worktops as they requested. During this job the saying ‘Most injuries in older men are because they still think they are young men’ came to the fore and although we were happy to have completed the job we agreed that in future that only jobs that can be carried out in the workshop would be taken on. The old benches were removed and the new ones were installed a month later in April. Asked if we wanted the cast iron ends from the uninstalled benches we readily agreed and with hardwood slats donated by a local firm (someone Barrie, our Health and Safety Officer knows and who regularly donates hardwood to the Shed) we are making benches to be donated by the Shed to a local Canal Trust.

During these jobs we were fed and watered handsomely and we talked endlessly about each other’s projects, fund raising and families. It was during one of these conversations that Barrie was discussed as his eyesight had begun to noticeably deteriorate over the last six months or so. Their response was magnificent and watching them kick into gear was an education. They have since made a number of visits to his home and he has also been to their centre. The support he has received has been fantastic, and is ongoing. His wellbeing and confidence received a massive boost. Like the Walsall Society for the Blind, there are many similar fantastic organisations out there meeting the needs of specific groups and it’s good to see Mens Sheds join this family, and as a relative newcomer to this family we can learn so much from their years of experience.

– Mark Perry, Aldridge Shed

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