Men's Shed founder voted Citizen of Year

AUSTRALIA DAY 2014 - Illawarra Honours Recipients

Ron Dryburgh has watched many men turn their lives around since he started the Albion Park Men's Shed two years ago.

He recalled one heart-wrenching story of a man who was suicidal until he found solace among the shed's community of men, who meet three times a week to socialise and learn new skills.

"There's so many wonderful and heartbreaking stories that have come out of the shed," he said.

"To me it's just made it all worthwhile."

A self-confessed "quiet achiever", Mr Dryburgh's efforts were yesterday publicly acknowledged when the Albion Park resident was named Shellharbour's Citizen of the Year.

He discovered he had been nominated by his wife, Ros, when he received two letters in the mail from the council.

"I saw the letters, went inside and said to my wife, 'Darl, have you paid the rates?'," he laughed.

"When I opened mine I knew my wife had nominated me because she had a corresponding letter, Mr Dryburgh said.

"It was exciting."

Mr Dryburgh said he was motivated to open the shed after discovering that more than 400 men in Shellharbour lived alone.

"I thought, 'gee, maybe there's something I can do to help these guys'," he said.

"A couple of months later I read about the men's shed movement."

The shed opened in February 2012 with four members. Today, there are more than 70 on the books.

The group tinkers with mini projects, but has also embarked upon larger pursuits including building park benches for the community and hundreds of toy cars for orphans throughout Asia.

Also acknowledged at the award ceremony was 18-year-old Corey Belsito, named the city's Young Citizen of the Year.

The Warilla High School student was also recognised for his leadership qualities and fund-raising activities, which include leading student campaigns for The World's Greatest Shave and 40 Hour Famine.

Mr Belsito will begin a civil engineering degree at Wollongong University in March and has already secured a work experience scholarship in Western Australia.

He hopes to one day start a mentoring program supporting indigenous school students in the Illawarra.

"This is my chance to give back ... previous school leaders were role models to me," he said.

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