A project aimed at tackling isolation in men has celebrated its official opening and is set for a positive future.
The first Men’s Shed initiative in Hartlepool has come to fruition after two years of hard work by volunteers who raised around £14,000.
The former Oz Centre in Osborne Road has been turned into a workshop space where men can do woodwork, gardening or just enjoy a chat and cuppa with friends.
People involved, including Hartlepool NDC Trust, which owns the building, celebrated its launch.
Peter Gowland, who helped develop the initiative, said: “It was a very successful event. We have got 60-odd members already and had lots of interest from health bodies, the voluntary sector and general public.
“People have got access to really good equipment and tools, unlimited refreshments and, crucially, free parking.
“It is about reducing isolation and helping men with time on their hands for whatever reason to get out of the house.
“They can do something useful, make friends or just have a chat. They can go at their own pace, there is no pressure.
“Nobody thinks it’s a bad idea, they just see the positives.
“It is early days by we are already talking about how we can extend the project.”
Hartlepool Voluntary Development Association (HVDA) organised a meeting in September 2014 to gauge interest after being approached with the idea from one town resident.
There are similar Men’s Sheds up and down the country but the nearest to Hartlepool were in County Durham, said Peter.
Since then a core group of volunteers have been hard at work getting the building ready for use and raising the necessary funds.
Peter said the shed will also host health visitors to help spread the word about important issues for men in a relaxed setting.
Hartlepool Men’s Shed is open every Tuesday and Thursday between 10am-3pm. There is an annual £10 membership fee and £1 per visit.