Stanhope’s special relationship

Relationship of sustainability: Stanhope Men’s Shed treasurer and coordinator Des Crichton and Fonterra’s Stanhope factory production manager Frank DiFede.

When the cheesemaking plant at Fonterra’s Stanhope factory was destroyed by fire in 2014, a major reconstruction of the facility was required — which meant a large amount of materials, from fresh timber to machinery, were needed.

When the rebuild began Fonterra made a pact with the Stanhope Men’s Shed that any excess materials would be donated to the shed.

Stanhope Men’s Shed treasurer and coordinator Des Crichton said it was a win-win relationship as Fonterra wanted to get rid of the materials and the shed’s members wanted to use them.

“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,” he said.

Mr Crichton said parts of the shed itself were constructed using the leftover materials and also created sheds they used to store things.

“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.”

For this relationship the Stanhope Men’s Shed was awarded the 2019 Outstanding Recycling/Upcycling Activity award by the Australian Men’s Shed Association.

Shed members build a range of different items that are sold to the community with the funds going back into maintaining the shed.

Mr Crichton spoke about how the shed brings people together.

“Loneliness is a terrible thing. In elderly people especially, who’ve lost their partners or friends,” he said.

“I have seen many cases where it’s changed people’s lives, just becoming a member has really turned things around for them.”

Mr Crichton said the shed had become a place that helped men to discuss their problems, instead of holding them in.

“They’re far more likely to talk to other blokes the same age as them than go to a nurse or doctor. It really has improved people’s health in a lot of ways.”

Frank DiFede, who is production manager at Fonterra’s Stanhope factory and has worked there for 27 years, is in charge of organising materials that go to the Stanhope Men’s Shed.

“The materials we donate would normally be sent to landfill or mulched into woodchip, so for us it’s not just about supporting the local community, it’s also a good way to reduce our impact on the environment,” Mr DiFede said.

“We always look for ways to support our community, not just one-offs, but for the long term, and our partnership with the Men’s Shed is a great example of this.

“It’s something that our people and our farmers are really proud of.”