Jeff Meeks is starting a Men’s Shed in the North West of the US. A Men’s Shed is a meeting space for men in the community to work on something together while building friendships. The effects of these groups on men’s mental and physical health have been proven through their successes in countries such as Australia and Ireland, where Men’s Sheds can be found in various locations across the country.
We asked Jeff what kind of change he is hoping to bring about in his community by starting one of the first Sheds in the US.
Have you already started working on your Men’s Shed?
Our Men’s Shed is an idea at this point. We are now forming a steering group. It is two friends and a large workshop in Montesano WA. I’m a handy guy who owns a company manufacturing wooden boat kits and I am the executive director of a nonprofit for people with developmental disabilities.
I think there are opportunities to promote the social inclusion ideals implicit in the Men’s Shed organization and to help with the major physical infrastructure needs of our community while bringing local nonprofits together. I’m now looking for men to join us.
The starter team: Jeff (on the right) and his friend John Hayes
In your own words, what is Men’s Shed all about?
Men’s Sheds got their start in Australia and have spread to Europe and America due to their success and popularity. Psychological research finds that what really motivates people are: mastery, autonomy and purpose.
In addition to their value to the community, the Men’s Shed movement is helping the membership. One of the founding principles of the Men’s Shed international organization is that “men don’t talk face-to-face, they talk shoulder-to-shoulder”. This rings true. If you want to get a group of guys to talk, ask them to help build something.
Why did you decide to start a Men’s Shed?
My community has tremendous challenges. Unemployment, drugs, generational poverty, you name it, but our state government isn’t putting a priority on helping rural communities, it’s up to us to do it ourselves.
What are you planning to do in your Men’s Shed in Montesano?
I think every Men’s Shed is going to be different, formed by the collective needs of the participants. At this early stage, the Men’s Shed of Grays Harbor is defined by my ideal of what it should be… and I don’t want that. I don’t think that organizations like this can survive solely on the vision of one person – they require buy-in from the participants…
… that said, it is my hope that it becomes more than just a maker space – more than simply a place in which people can use the laser cutter or cnc machine because they don’t have money or room for one at home.
Do you have a bigger vision of what the Men’s Shed could become?
Our community has tremendous needs, but suffers a big void when it comes to addressing them. Imagine what a team of men and women, backed by experience and skills could do once connected to the larger community. Imagine if our younger people had access to a group of mentors to help them. Imagine if that group became the go-to resource in the community to help with small projects.
Making social connections while contributing to our community is a win-win. Men’s Sheds are a proven solution.