When the primary cheese plant at our Stanhope factory in northern Victoria was destroyed by a fire in 2014, a major reconstruction project was required to fix it – meaning a considerable number of materials were needed, from fresh timber to new machinery and stainless-steel vats.
But while one door was closing, another was opening.
When the rebuild got underway, we made a pact with Des and the shed — retired Fonterra employees among its ranks — to donate any surplus materials from the project to the shed.
“That’s how it started – Fonterra needed to get rid of it, and we wanted to use it,” says Des.
“Every time they unpacked something over there, we went over with our trailer and carted it back here for use, and that’s been going on ever since. Parts of the shed itself were constructed using its leftover materials, as were some of the sheds we built to store things in.
“The partnership has been continuously fruitful since then with Fonterra sending 50 large trailer loads of materials each year our way.
“Anything they have in the factory that’s surplus, we’re interested in. I’m now in there once a fortnight,” Des says.
In fact, in 2019 the Australian Men’s Shed Association awarded Stanhope Men’s Shed with ‘Outstanding Recycling/Upcycling Activity’ for its partnership with Fonterra.
“It was a huge moment for the shed,” Des says.
Members of the shed can use the materials freely to build any number of items, which are often sold to the local community to raise funds for the shed. With the donations we raise $5,000 a year which is used for new tools and maintaining the shed.
It also brings men in the local community together — the effects of which Des says has been life-changing.
“Loneliness is a terrible thing. In elderly people especially, who’ve lost their partners or friends.
“There are people in the town that you often saw wandering around, looking for something to do. They took some convincing to come to the shed, but once I was able to get them in, they’ve never been happier and healthier.