PLAY TIME: Men’s Shed publicity officer Alan Cameron, left, with a very happy Detric Niyera, 5, at last week’s presentation. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By GRANT MAYNARD

THERE were grins from ear to ear all around last week at the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council (SMECC) Wednesday playgroup.

It is, by nature, a happy place, but the grins were just a little wider when Sunraysia Men’s Shed members arrived with armloads of new, handmade wooden toys.

To say they were a hit with the youngsters is an understatement, and they were welcomed by parents almost as enthusiastically.

It is not the first time men’s shed members have made toys for SMECC.

“We made some a couple of years back,” shed publicity officer, Alan ‘Sandy’ Cameron, told the ‘Weekly.

“They were well received and have had a lot of use since they were donated…so we reckoned it was time we donated some more,” he said.

The shed boasts several members who enjoy making the toys.

And still others who assist by applying the paint.

“It keeps them busy and out of mischief,” Sandy says, with only a hint of tongue in cheek.

The wooden toys have proven much more durable than their plastic counterparts, with a well-made toy being something to treasure in our modern, disposable society according to their makers.

The latest batch of toys from the Shed ranged from the requisite cars and trucks through to a doll’s cradle.

They were presented to a grateful SMECC in a low-key presentation ceremony last week hosted by SMECC community program coordinator Juvelina Guterres, and attended by Alan and shed president Graeme Roper, and Mildura Rural City Council Rural Access Worker Jeni Snadden.

Juvelina said the first donation of toys were still in use by SMECC’s twice-weekly playgroup participants, and that the new toys were a welcome addition.

She revealed that the men’s shed wooden toys are much more durable than the ubiquitous mass-produced plastic examples the majority of children are forced to play with today for a lack of alternatives.

The SMECC playgroups meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, catering for up to 50 children from 26 countries, some of them having only been in Sunraysia for a few weeks.

As an example of the diversity  the children who regularly take part, countries represented at last week’s ceremony included The Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Malaysia.

Explaining her involvement, Jenni said she was a facilitator, connecting the men’s shed and the playgroup.

Part of her role with Council involves liaising with groups and organisations such as the men’s shed and daycare and playgroups across the municipality.

She also added that it was not the first time she had worked with the men’s shed and other community groups.

“The men’s shed has been involved in other material donations and projects (across the municipality),” Jeni explained.

She revealed she has been working with the Men’s Shed since 2015, and that members have been busy working on various projects for their local community.

In 2015, four childcare centres received toys, and during 2016 and 2017 toys were distributed to Nangiloc and Mallee Track communities.

The men have made toys from play stoves to push carts and musical instruments for local community playgroups, Jeni said.

They are also in the throes of building a model for use at Mildura’s eco-village, she added.

So far in 2018, men’s shed-made toys have been donated to:

• Underbool Early Learning Centre

• Trinity College Play group

• Red Cliffs Community Playgroup

• Mallee Family Care – Child Care centres

• Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council Child Care

Summing up the presentation, Alan said: “The smiles on the faces of the children were all the shed members needed to know that all their hard work had been worthwhile.”