History of the Coffs Harbour Men's Shed

The Early Years  2006~2009

In 2006 several Rotarians from three Coffs Clubs formed a committee with the aim of establishing a Men’s Shed in Coffs Harbour. These men, Allen Mitchell, Derek King Scott, Peter Rheinberger, George Partos, and Ken Howe set out to find suitable premises and finance to create and build a Community Men’s Shed for the Coffs Harbour Area. It was confirmed after several visits to the Nambucca Men’s Shed that a Shed in Coffs Harbour was a necessity.

Many commercial enquiries were made to lease or buy a shed but all to no avail. An offer from the Showground Trust was thoroughly investigated but was found not to be financially viable. The local members of Parliament were most helpful but their suggestions proved unfruitful. The Coffs Harbour City Council said they had some land becoming available in the Airport precinct but that land was not yet available.

While all this frustrating work was going on, John Mandile, General Manager of CHESS (Coffs Harbour Employment and Support Services Inc.) initiated his vision of a Men’s Shed and started an in depth study of the ramifications of opening a Shed. This included budgeting, legal, OH&S, leasing and staffing. John Mandile knew of Rotary’s desire to establish a shed, and with assistance from Vicki Woodrow, Human Resources Manager of CHESS, John leased a bare 500 square metre tin shed in Marcia Street Coffs Harbour.

May 2009

On the 14th May John Mandile called a meeting in his office and advised Rotary representatives that he had leased the Marcia Street shed for 3 years. CHESS would pay the lease and all the occupancy costs, as well as pay for a Supervisor for 3 days a week.

The Men’s Shed was to provide a venue for CHESS clients as well as the Community at large, and would be set up for woodwork. Rotary was invited to do the fit out of the shed and provide a layout plan, and a list of equipment needed. Rotary was formally asked to provide mentors for teaching and guidance to the clients of the shed.

On the 29th May a meeting at the Shed confirmed that The Rotary Club of Coffs Harbour would take on the work required at the shed and Vicki Woodrow handed the keys to Derek King Scott of the Coffs Harbour Rotary Club.

June 2009

After the Rotary change over in June, the new President Wayne Stokes and the new Community Service Director Wayne Glenn quickly become involved with the length and depth of this large undertaking. CHESS initiated a Memorandum of Understanding and after input from Rotary and general discussion, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed off in September.

It just so happened that Allen Mitchell had a business lease change over and on the 25th June he arranged for the entire furniture and cupboards etc. of Sullivan and Nicolaides Pathology to be sent to the shed. What a magnificent start!!!.


July 2009 ~ August 2009

July saw an ad placed in the Advocate for the position of Supervisor of the Shed. There were approximately 35 responses.

On the 25th July Wayne Glenn held the first of many working bees, and used the resources of the Rotary committee to seek donations of the materials required for the project. Wayne was most impressed with the generosity of the business community and was able to forge ahead with the fit out. While the fit out was going on, many members of the community donated materials and most importantly tools and floor machinery. Most of these donations had to be picked up and stored. An inventory list was taken and thank you letters were sent out to the donors.

Derek King Scott and Allen Mitchell were the best beggars. Derek King Scott used his scrounging skills learned from the Glenreagh Mountain Railway to arrange for all sorts of things to arrive at the Shed, no one will ever know the work Derek has done behind the scenes. Timber, particle board, electrical wiring, switches fittings, paint, doors, windows, stairs floor coverings, sign writing etc. came to hand. The working bees continued at a relentless pace, with at least 10 on weekends as well as many on week days. Soon the lecture room, the kitchen, the office and the mezzanine became a reality.

September 2009

After the committee members interviewed the applicants on the short list, Peter Murphy was appointed on the 23rd September 09.

Peter Murphy quickly become very involved with all the aspects of the Shed, with particular emphasis on calling on referral groups to encourage participants to utilize the Shed’s facilities. The listing and categorizing of the tool equipment took a high priority, and in conjunction with the committee, this job was soon completed. The tools and equipment still required was nearly all defined, and a wish list was created. The layout and the subsequent storing of all the donated goods had been demanding, as well as the necessary compliance with OH&S.

October 2009

On the 6th October the Steering Committee for the Shed was formalised.

The make up was:
     - 3 voting members from CHESS, John Mandile, Vicki Woodrow and another officer.

     - From Rotary, Derek King Scott, Ken Hall and Ken Howe as voting members and Wayne Glenn, Rob Shone and Paul Pierlot as non voting members.

The committee now meets very regularly and handles the many issues pertaining to the Shed. During October the Official Mission Statement was adopted, also the Committee was able to display the Ten Rules of The Men’s Shed, which gave, in fairly simple direct language, basic rules for operation of The Shed.

October also saw the first defined project, that is “The Possum Boxes”. Bunnings suggested WIRES would like the Shed to produce boxes for relocating possums. Bunnings donated all the materials necessary and WIRES sent in a possum box specification. The participants at the Shed, under supervision, successfully produced several boxes.

November 2009 – December 2009

On the 25th November Rotary handed over the Men’s Shed, the fit out completed as planned. Peter Murphy’s input greatly helped in calling The Shed operational at this handover.

January 2010

On Wednesday 27th January 2010 the Rotary Club of Coffs Harbour held their regular evening meeting at the Shed. Other local Rotary Clubs attended and in all about 55 people were present. The Coffs Rotarians provided the meal and refreshments from the BBQ trailer (the Clouto).

The night saw some donations confirmed and some more tool equipment would be purchased.

February 2010

During November plans were put in place to have the “Official Opening” on Tuesday 16th February 2010 at 11.00am and finally the big day arrived. Mayor Keith Rhoades, Deputy Mayor Bill Palmer, Federal Member Luke Hartsuyker, and State Member Andrew Fraser were the representatives for the government. Also present was John Mandile, General Manager of CHESS, with about 15 CHESS representatives and about 25 Rotarians, including Wayne Stokes, President of Coffs Harbour Club.

Peter Murphy, the Shed’s supervisor, had arranged for several mentors and participants to be available. It was pleasing to see so many representatives from the business community as these were the people whose sponsorship made the Shed possible. There were plenty of representatives from community groups. The media was there in strength and resulted in two features on that night’s local TV news, and the newspapers gave two reports over the next couple of days.

The 11.00 am start saw the attendees looking around the Shed and partaking of the free sausage sizzle and light refreshments provided by Coffs Harbour Rotary.
At 11.30 am MC Ken Howe called the 150 people to order and the 5 speakers progressed through the programme which culminated in the ribbon being cut at 11.55am by Luke Hartsuyker, John Mandile and Wayne Stokes. Proceedings finished on time at noon.

The next weeks after the opening saw the level of community enquiry increase dramatically.

Peter Murphy was now able to concentrate on the very core of the Men’s Shed activities, that is to get the mentors and participants up to full strength and see the completion of some projects they had undertaken. This “production” saw the very heart of the Shed come alive, Men working shoulder to shoulder in a harmonious environment learning new skills, enjoying each others company and sharing a sense of accomplishment.

This is what Peter Murphy wanted, this is what we all wanted.

The First Year

After the official opening the Shed went through a stage of consolidation.

On reviewing the operations of the Shed a few significant points came to hand...

  • Peter Murphy stated that the floor equipment and hand tools were quite adequate, as were timber stocks and consumables.

  • The mentors had their responsibilities defined.

  • The number of participants was about up to comfortable levels and the procedures and documentation for their interviews and inductions had been decided on.

  • The gold coin per day donation was working well and participants were agreeable to this.

  • Without becoming “too commercial” payments were being received for many jobs carried out by the Shed.

  • Peter Murphy, in conjunction with CHESS, developed a Shed ‘hand out’ colour brochure.

  • The web site for the Shed, with guidance from CHESS, had been upgraded.

  • Peter had arranged for qualified medical people to come to the Shed and give talks on various aspects of men’s health.

  • The Steering Committee was holding its regular monthly meetings in the conference room at the Shed. These meetings continued to be chaired by John Mandile (General Manager of CHESS) and there was a balance of CHESS and Rotary members. 

  • Paul Kelly from CHESS replaced Vicki Woodrow.

  • The committee was very aware of the CHESS funding of about $65,000 per year which was only in place until May 2012.

  • Many ideas for ongoing finance were discussed, finding a Patron, getting a Corporate sponsor, fundraising events, etc.

  • There was a perceived need for “new blood” to join the Committee with fresh ideas as well as expertise in fund raising.

  • The suggestion of getting our own land and building our own shed was gaining support.

  • Two high profile Coffs Harbour Rotarians, Dennis Martin (PCYC) and Neville Hillenberg (Shearwater Lodge) were invited to meetings but neither was prepared to join a fund raising committee. Both these men gave several suggestions for fund raising. The discussions on fund raising included continuing effort in applying for various grants, seeking assistance from “top end of town” business men (FLOT), placing “Grumpy Old Men” fund seeking boards in various businesses, etc.

  • The need of a professional video of the Shed’s activities to support fund raising was defined and the engagement of a professional fund raiser was considered.

  • It was decided the committee would meet on the first Wednesday of each month.

  • CHESS provided some preliminary financials of the Shed’s operations.

  • Efforts continue to form a cohesive fundraising sub committee continue. 

  • Paul is arranging a meeting with Uniting Church. 

  • AMSA is to be contacted for their advice. 

  • Bunnings is to be contacted about their Saturday BBQ.

  • When asked by Paul, new committee man Tony Goninan confirmed our thinking that the Shed was fully operational and we should concentrate on financing and fundraising. We should do more to promote the Shed’s facilities to attract more support.

  • Tony recently visited the Junee Men’s Shed and was advised it’s mainstream funding was from the Uniting Church.

  • Paul said we should be more mindful of the “Stand alone Entity” that the Shed is and minimize the perception the Shed is funded by CHESS and Rotary.

  • The Shed is a valuable community asset.

  • On 30/09/10 a meeting with five Uniting Church representatives was held at the Shed. They were very impressed with the facilities and activities of the Shed and were invited to send representatives to the October committee meeting. We understand Uniting Care Ageing is very interested in Sheds and is involved with funding other Sheds.

  • Pat Faggotter joined the Steering Committee and has continued to make a meaningful contribution.

  • AMSA submission (150 out of the 400 sheds applied), decision is expected in November.

  • The Shed is now on Bunnings BBQ roster.

  • Shed quarterly financials confirm the need of funding for salary and rent.

  • CHCC advised “airport land’ was still one to one and half years away.

  • Contact with Dept of Veteran Affairs again made.

  • The three minute promotional DVD produced by CHESS IT staff, with Peter’s voice over, was presented.

  • Tony Goninan and Garry Watt attended an AMSA meeting at Lake Macquarie. Tony commented most other sheds do not pay rent and Tony submitted a report which included many thoughts on fundraising.

  • Men’s Shed logo and official shirt adopted.

  • The need for a fundraising committee was again aired. Many, many fundraising ideas were discussed.

  • Andrew Fraser, the local State member visited the Shed and commented if there was a change of Government he would like to see the Shed in the Showground. Andrew wants a concise fact sheet on the Shed’s activities.

  • Meeting with CHCC General Manager was disappointing.

  • Meeting with Federal Member Luke Hartsuyker went well and is also very aware of the Shed’s activities and he also wants a fact sheet.

  • Decided to prepare Certificates of Appreciation for presentation to sponsors.

  • The first birthday party held on 18/03/11 resulted in 75 attendees including politicians, CHESS. Rotary, mentors, participants, business and general community. The BBQ was well received and the print media coverage was excellent with Pat Faggotter’s birthday cake receiving special attention.

  • The Certificates of Appreciation were handed out.

  • The “Do You Know” fact sheet was well received.

  • As can be seen the Shed in its ‘first year’ under Peter’s day to day guidance had developed into a thriving enthusiastic vital community asset.

  • Whilst we are reaching “safe capacity” with daily attendance figures of around 20 we are able to offer great support to the 200 or so men who use the Shed’s facilities.

  • There is no doubt the Shed has made a major contribution to the mental health and well being of many Coffs Harbour men.

  • We must be mindful of the exceptional contribution that CHESS, Rotary and the Steering Committee members has made to maintaining the operation of the Shed.

  • The Shed has had contact with the School of Rural Medicine. This has resulted in a medical student doing a study on mental health. The student was given free access to the Shed. The resultant report talked about the Shed’s activities in glowing terms.

  • It is becoming apparent that the skill levels at the Shed are increasing and now and a greater variety of work is being done with better quality. This has increased the income significantly.

  • The recent contacts with the various Rotary Clubs has resulted in some generous donations.

  • Some second hand dust extraction equipment has been donated and this now been installed giving an improvement in the dust problem.

  • In June John Mandile announced his retirement. John has gained great satisfaction in getting the Shed up and running.

  • The Shed has made a bus trip to Nambucca Shed. The exchange of ideas and inspection of their operation was enjoyed by the 15 attendees.

  • Paul Kelly has been appointed CEO of CHESS.

  • The possibility of obtaining a second hand shed from the Cook Drive redevelopment area has been considered.

  • The Shed assisted Coffs City Rotary Club with the NAB annual bike ride.

  • An open day at the Shed resulted in $500.00 in sales and plenty of visitors to the Shed.

  • Coffs Harbour City Council again confirmed the “airport land” was 2 years away.

  • Discussion on the Shed’s lease confirms April 2012 expiry.

  • UnitingCare representatives visit Shed.

  • Meeting was held with Andrew Fraser and Luke Hartsuyker to keep them aware of the Shed’s needs and aspirations.

  • Submission for “Community Buildings Partnership” grant being prepared.

  • Paul Gallagher and Ian Isles advised they no longer had an interest in the Cook Drive redevelopment area.

  • Web page for Shed updated.

  • A front page article in the Independent has been well received by the public at large.

  • The Art Show arranged by CHESS enabled Ken Howe to have some one on one quality time with Steve McGrath on the Shed’s activities.

  • Wayne Glenn wanted assurances the Shed had adequate month to month funding.

  • The Shed lease is OK on a month to month basis.

  • Wayne Glenn can see the benefits in purchasing a second hand shed but felt a new shed would be a better option.

  • Round 3 of AMSA funding results in a $1300.00 grant for a computer and printer.

  • CHESS confirm funding okay to June 2012.

  • A January meeting with Coffs Harbour City Council staff confirmed again “airport land” allocated to the Shed. We asked the Council to please re-look at Crown, Showground and any other land that may be available.

  • Peter secured the Coffs Harbour City Council “headstone project” and Coffs Harbour Rotary Club provided a new electric cement mixer.