Men in Sheds Hull, a charity working to reduce social isolation for older men, has won £5,000 of unrestricted funds from the John Good Group’s highly competitive Grants for Good Fund. The growing charity beat over 400 entries to be shortlisted in the top five, before capturing the hearts of John Good Group employees to attract the most votes.
Men in Sheds Hull aims to avoid detrimental health impacts of social isolation on older men by providing a safe and inclusive space for members to come together to undertake woodworking projects, offering social interaction and a sense of purpose in the community. As well as selling the products they create, the group regularly help other community organisations in the city, a recent project seeing them build garden furniture for a local community garden.
The charity was started in 2014 by Barry Cooper, a retired chef from Hull who had suffered from multiple strokes, after he saw a documentary on TV about a project called Men in Sheds in Australia. After struggling through the pandemic, they recovered well, increasing their services, updating their board of trustees, and employing a new manager – Nick Todd. As result of their success, they have recently secured a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund that will help keep their doors open for the next three years.
However, the services of the shed are in extremely high demand. Currently they are open four days a week with 46 active members, and 30 people on their waiting list. Equipment also regularly becomes worn and needs to be replaced or serviced, and there are ongoing costs for supplies such as wood, glue, screws and other equipment. Looking for help with these costs, they applied to Grants for Good.
Grants for Good is a charitable fund from the John Good Group that grants £60,000 annually to small community groups, charities or social enterprises that have a positive impact on people or planet. It is just one of the many CSR initiatives managed for the Group by the Matthew Good Foundation, whose mission is to amplify small charitable causes doing high-impact work that is often unseen and underfunded.
Every quarter, the fund receives around 400 applications to receive a share of £15,000, with just five making the shortlist. John Good Group employees then vote on the final five to decide which organisations get the biggest share, with the winner of the employee’s vote receiving £5,000.
In March 2023, the Matthew Good Foundation announced Men in Sheds Hull as the winner of the vote, securing the highest possible grant of £5,000.
Donna Jackson, a Trustee of the charity commented on the win, “We are so honoured to receive this funding and it’s really touching that so many of the John Good Group employees voted for us and made us this round’s winners. It will make such a difference to our members and volunteers. Our members are made up of people from all walks of life but with one thing in common, the shed. Some members are recently bereaved, others retired, many with physical and mental health issues. After the pandemic and its affects, there is now huge demand in the city of people who have and still do feel isolated and vulnerable.”
Adam Walsh, CEO of the John Good Group visited the shed along with Michelle Taft, Executive Director of the Matthew Good Foundation, during one of their sessions to meet the members who will benefit from the donation, talking to members about their experiences and the impact the shed has had on their lives.
One of the shed’s oldest members, aged 92, highlighted the importance of the charity remarking “I wouldn’t be here [alive] if it wasn’t for the shed.” A retired retail worker who joined at the age of 85 after losing his wife, his fellow members described how he was very quiet at first, but then they were “blown away” with the amazing intricate models he now creates having picked up new woodworking and 3D printing skills from others at the shed.
Another member who worked at a local shipyard before retiring was delighted to find something in common with the John Good Group, who have a long history in the shipping industry, talking with Adam about the boats he had worked on in his career, whilst also proudly showing off the beautiful wooden benches and arbours he now makes for the local community.
Adam described how the charity resonated with him during his visit, “Men can find themselves isolated and lonely very easily, especially when not in work. Whether that’s through retirement or other circumstances, it can be hard for men to find a purpose in life and the social connections that is vital to maintaining health, both mental and physical. Meeting the group that use the facility at Men in Sheds Hull, and seeing how it has given them the chance to create some brilliant pieces of work, whilst being able to openly discuss their stories with me was so refreshing. I’m delighted we’ve been able to help with our grant.
“Charities like this are exactly the type that The John Good Group want to support. That’s why the work the Matthew Good Foundation does is so vital, connecting a business that wants to have a social impact, with a great charity doing amazing work in our local community. This is especially true for a business like ours, when we’ve not always got the time or expertise to do all the relevant due diligence ourselves whilst doing the day-to-day management. There’s still lots more impact we can make, and through our work with the Matthew Good Foundation, there will be plenty more coming from the group in the coming months.”