Apr 03, 2024

Rusty encourages everyone to ‘have a go’ while volunteering at Men’s Shed

Men's shed group
a group of resident's at Resthaven Aberfoyle Park enjoy Men's Shed activities. Image supplied by Resthaven.

Rusty Novice, a volunteer at Resthaven Aberfoyle Park, is a firm believer in the sense of satisfaction that comes from achieving. 

‘I always encourage people to have a go,’ Rusty says. ‘Whether it’s someone from the community, my own kids, or now my grandkids, if someone comes along and asks if they can help, I’ll always say yes. Even if it’s just something small, I’ll find something that suits the individual, so they experience the satisfaction of accomplishment.’

This attitude in life has led Rusty to many experiences, including working with 13-18 year-olds in the army as an Australian Army Cadet Lieutenant (later being promoted to the higher rank of Cadet Major), inviting local students to do work experience with him when he was a State Service Manager for a commercial refrigeration business, stepping up to take on coaching and umpiring for local netball teams, and now, volunteering to support the Men’s Shed group at Resthaven Aberfoyle Park. 

‘I’ve always been good at doing things with my hands, and interested in working with people’ Rusty says. ‘But, up until now, I’ve helped youth. This is the first time I have done this sort of work with people my own age.’

Rusty’s Resthaven volunteering began with a query from Cheryl Bajszi, Resthaven Aberfoyle Park’s Lifestyle Coordinator. 

‘I was visiting my wife (a resident at Resthaven Aberfoyle Park), and Cheryl just popped her head around the door and said she had heard I was a bit “handy”,’ Rusty says. ‘I don’t know where she had heard that, but when she mentioned starting a Men’s Shed group, I was certainly interested.’

The group has been running for around six months now, and so far, has worked on projects including photo display frames, and an Australian Army Rising Sun.

One of the first projects the group did was a drink coaster for each participant. ‘I brought in the pieces of wood and the guys then sanded them and finished them with a beeswax coating,’ Rusty says. ‘It’s something they can take back to their room, and family and friends can see it when they visit, and the guy can say “I made that!”’ 

Now, they are starting on a new project – their own version of a Flanders poppy to be ready in time for ANZAC Day. 

Rusty says he has been mindful to plan for projects that suit the participants. 

‘Some of the guys have never done anything like this before, while others know their way around,’ Rusty says. ‘It’s always nice when they see the finished project. Sometimes I’ll turn up with a bag full of pieces and they’ll say “What is that going to be?!”. But once it all comes together it’s something we can all be proud of making.’ 

Sustainability is another area Rusty is passionate about (he also volunteers at the Aberfoyle Park Repair Café, fixing items so they can continue to be used, rather than thrown away). 

‘Everything we make at the Men’s Shed group uses recycled timber,’ Rusty says. ‘We mainly use old pallets which I pick up from around the place, and then pull apart to remove any nails etc. We haven’t had to buy any timber to make things.’ 

Breaking the ice

At his first session, Rusty brought in his 1965 Mustang, and parked it in front of the Resthaven Aberfoyle Park café, so that it was visible when the men had their first meeting. 

‘I did it as a bit of an icebreaker,’ Rusty says. ‘It got the guys talking and was a way for them to open up so I could find out a bit about their lives.’ 

Rusty describes himself as a cancer survivor, and because of sharing this experience, others in the group have shared their stories. 

‘Volunteering gives me a real sense of purpose and I feel as though I am doing something worthwhile,’ Rusty says. ‘I was one of those strange people who liked going to work – I liked the achievement. So, when work wasn’t there anymore, I started to look at other ways to get this sense of achievement. It’s been really terrific to be involved with Resthaven this way. I love it when I walk through the halls of the home and different ones will recognise me and say hello and ask how I’m doing. It’s nice to make these connections and see that the Men’s Shed group members are getting something out of it as well.’

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