I think I can say that this year has been a strange and challenging one for most of us.
2020 got off to a good start for us at the Shed, we were settling into our new home nicely, attendance was growing and everyone was getting on well. We were undertaking a few community projects as well as some personal stuff, and then, it all went pear shaped! Coronavirus hit and we went into Lockdown 1, shed closed but it had to be done for everyone’s safety.
However in good “Shed” fashion we were not deterred and, thanks to Robert, “Project Shield” was born and we started to produce face shields. A team of “shedders” started a little cottage industry working from home, printing, cutting, punching. We opened the shed to a small group of members, followed COVID guidelines on social distancing etc. and starting sanitising, packaging and dispatching visors to local care homes and care workers.
The local community got on board with what we were doing and made donations so that we could purchase materials that enabled us to donate the visors. Wives and daughters got involved and made the telephone calls to the local care homes etc. and HVA assisted with the collection and distribution. As the weeks went by we kept going, demand changed to schools, hairdressers, physiotherapists etc. and then as more and more PPE became generally available the demand tailed off, but not before we had produced circa 2000 units, not bad for a bunch of old boys in a shed!
We took advantage of the weather and had our access path and patio area constructed and as lockdown restrictions eased that allowed us to hold open air coffee mornings and reopen the shed, albeit in a different format of 4 sessions a week and limited to 6 members per session. Whilst not as busy as some of our previous sessions at least we were able to meet and some close friendships have been made within those groups. Project work started again and thanks to the efforts of a number of members we managed to get the cladding of our storage container and toilet block completed, and I have to say I think it looks fantastic. We have cleaned up the front so that it doesn’t look like “Steptoe’s Yard” anymore, and then Lockdown 2 which saw us again having to close the doors.
During all this of course the virus has continued to play havoc and the rules and regulations have been a moving target. We are fortunate, as a “support group” we are able to take advantage of some of the exceptions and this has allowed us to be able to open the doors again in our 4 groups. However, we must not be complacent, we have members that have been directly affected with the loss of family members and our condolences go to all of those members and their families, as well as members that fall into the high risk category. I guess we are fortunate that we have remained in Tier 2, but our local numbers of infections is rising and we are surrounded by Tier 3 areas. I would therefore urge everyone and especially our members to think carefully about their Xmas plans and when they return to the “shed” in the New Year for everyone’s protection.
Funding has been reduced this year. We took the decision to reduce membership fees as the shed hadn’t been open but that hasn’t stopped us looking for opportunities and investing in some new equipment. We are part of the CO-OP Local Communities Fund and I would ask that you circulate this information to as many people as you can and ask them to buy Co-op branded products and select us as the charity to support.
As much as we advocate supporting local business, Amazon Smile is also a nice little revenue stream for us so if you are buying on line please use www.smile.amazon.co.uk and select us as the charity to support, it’s no different for you.
So what does 2021 look like? Well, who knows? We have a vaccine programme but that’s going to take a few months to roll out country wide. We will be opening in the New Year with our 4 days a week but with plans to operate 2 sessions on a Tuesday and Wednesday. This will allow more members to attend which will enable those who have expressed an interest in joining to get involved.
So as 2020 comes to a close, thank goodness I hear you say, we wish everyone the best Christmas and New Year that you are able to have and thank you all for your support during the year.
Church Crookham and Fleet Men’s Shed