Sight for saw eyes as South Tyneside's Men in Sheds win Newcastle Building Society grant

Release Date: 12 January 2018

Members of a successful South Tyneside men's group are fully tooled up thanks to a four-figure grant received through the local branch of Newcastle Building Society.

Men In Sheds South Tyneside offers a fully-equipped workshop where skilled and unskilled men can share a space, work together on community projects and talk about what's on their minds.

Based in an industrial unit on Hutton Street in Boldon Colliery, the group meets between 10am and 3pm every weekday, with its members using their skills to make items including garden furniture, bird boxes and bird tables, as well as taking on other woodworking job requests that come in from members of the local community.

The group was founded four years ago, and has since been using second-hand tools that were either donated to the project or belonged to some of its members, with the proceeds from the sale of the things they make being given to local charities.

But now, after being nominated by William Jeromson, a customer at Newcastle Building Society's Fowler Street branch in South Shields and treasurer of the Men In Sheds South Tyneside Group, a £2,571 grant has been given to enable it to buy a range of new tools, including a scroll saw, a woodturning lathe a Brad point drill set and a Bosch combi drill.

The grant has also covered the cost of a new dust extractor, which takes the particles created by the members' work out of the air and ensures the workshop remains a suitable environment for anyone with chest conditions.

The funding has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which has been set up to provide grants to charities and community groups that are located in or around the communities served by the Society's branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.

Since its launch in 2016, the Fund has contributed £142,000 in grants to projects across the Society's North East and Cumbria heartland, and is so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 77,000 people.

Based around a concept created in Australia 20 years ago that has spread around the world, Men In Sheds helps to tackle social isolation and loneliness among older men by providing a safe place where they can enjoy spending time together.

The South Tyneside group currently has 23 members, two of whom are in the early stages of dementia, but they still are able to contribute to the work that's being done and still benefit from being part of the project.

William Jeromson says: “The time we share together, whether while working on a new piece of furniture, talking about different parts of our lives or simply chatting over a cup of tea, is really valuable to all of us, and the fellowship that the group offers has made a big difference to the lives of many of our members.

"People enjoy using the skills that they've developed during their working lives, and being able to benefit local good causes in the process is an added benefit.

"Anyone aged 55 or older can drop in to any of our sessions to try them out, and as well as attracting members from the surrounding area, we've had people coming from as far afield as Herrington and Durham City.

"The savings that we have wouldn't have gone anywhere near covering the cost of all these new tools, and they would have been out of our reach if it hadn't been for the Society's generous support."

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. Grant applications for a maximum of £3,000 can be made in any Society branch or via the website by customers who wish to support their local communities.

Ann Newham, manager at Newcastle Building Society's South Shields branch, adds: “This is a fantastic project that has clear benefits for people living across our community, and helps to tackle the growing problem of social isolation among older people who might otherwise not see anyone for days at a time.

“One of our Society's core values is supporting our communities, and providing this funding is an ideal way for us to live up to that commitment."