What began with a handmade storage box and a couple of quirky bottle lights has become a thriving concern helping support veterans and their families.
Established about three years ago, the Citizens’ Auxiliary Hobby Shed at the Pine Rivers RSL Sub Branch gives members a sense of purpose and connection, as well as raising money for veteran support services.
As interest in the Hobby Shed grew, so too did the variety of crafts members produced – expanding to creative clocks, lovingly carved children’s toys, planter boxes and more.
Pine Rivers RSL Citizens’ Auxiliary president Nigel Wilson says he joined to get out of the house, stay active and learn new skills.
“I came as a volunteer, and I started off by mowing lawns and cleaning toilets. That was four and a half years ago,” Nigel says.
“Then I started making bottles with lights in them and selling the odd one here and there to raise a bit extra and it snowballed.
“Then we started making the planter boxes and it took off like a rocket.
“The craft ladies came in and saw them and that was it for the next six months – we made nothing but planter boxes,” he laughs.
Home away from home
Nigel says The Hobby Shed is a home away from home where men and women can use a range of tools for personal projects and to produce items to be sold by the Auxiliary.
Since its inception it has raised thousands of dollars to support the Sub Branch and its members.
And the small but mighty volunteer cohort is doing more than just raising funds for veterans – it offers members and the general public a haven where they can learn and socialise.
“The Hobby Shed actually started as a way for our Sub Branch members to get out of the house, learn new skills, and socialise and interact with others,” Nigel explains.
“Being a part of the Hobby Shed can help those who are perhaps stuck at home and staring at the walls around them – which is particularly important for those suffering from PTSD.
“We’ve found that just communication with others and getting out of your comfort zone is powerful, and we’ve got guys here who can teach them how to use tools and table saws.”
The “we”, Nigel refers to are the core group of Auxiliary members and volunteers who have worked to bring the Hobby Shed to life, each bringing valuable skills to the table.
“It’s a real team effort here, and each member does a different aspect of the work,” he says.
Di Schulte is known for her floral, arts and crafts talents, while Ross Whiley turns out wooden toys and flag boxes and Paul Scarborough’s domain is the shed, where he works on bigger items.
“Then there’s Wayne Lord who is our vice president,” Nigel says.
“Without him it would all fall apart as he handles the catalogues and the paperwork.
“They all contribute and without them, the Hobby Shed wouldn’t exist.”
Paul, a carpenter by trade and a history buff, relishes the opportunity to work on projects commissioned by the community.
He’s currently creating a wooden stand for a ship’s bell for a man who served on the HMAS Melbourne before it was decommissioned in October, 2019.
“The metal for the bell came from the HMAS Melbourne’s ship bell,” Paul says.
“When it was decommissioned they melted the bell down and added bronze and copper.
“Then they poured a series of ships’ bells – the guy who cast them tunes them.
“It’s a real joy to be making something connected with the Melbourne.”
Nigel says that soon after the crew pooled their skillset, they began selling their wares at markets, Bunnings and online to bring in a revenue stream outside of the major Defence commemorations, such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.
“We’ve now got a CNC router (computer-controlled router machine) and a 3D printer, and we’ve started cutting glass bottles and making bedside lamps,” Nigel says.
“It’s a work in progress. But last year alone we raised thousands of dollars and this year’s looking even better.”
The Hobby Shed is open weekdays from 9am to noon, with Thursdays set aside for members to work on their own projects, use the tools and gain guidance to build their skills.
The other days are dedicated to making goods for the Hobby Shed to sell, with all funds fuelling the Sub Branch, which in turn supports veterans.
“If any volunteers or members want to help us along the way and get out of the house, they are more than welcome to come and join us on any of those days.
“There’s a versatile amount of machinery to use and this year, our goal is to bring more people into the Hobby Shed,” Nigel says.
Volunteering for the Auxiliary for more than four years has also taught Nigel a thing or two.
“I work harder now than I did when I was working,” he laughs.
“I’ve learned perseverance and a bit of creativity.
“But most of all, what I’ve gotten out of this is just being part of a big family. Everybody here cares about everybody else and that’s the best part.”
To get involved with the Hobby Shed or explore their catalogue email Nigel at [email protected] or phone 3285 8022.
The Auxiliary will hold market tables at local shopping centres in the lead-up to Mother’s Day.
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