MINI VAN: Frank Heppel's latest project at Grafton Men's Shed is a mini-version of his popular tear-drop caravan he has used to travel around Australia.
MINI VAN: Frank Heppel's latest project at Grafton Men's Shed is a mini-version of his popular tear-drop caravan he has used to travel around Australia. Tim Howard

Celebration of 10 years of life changing experiences

HELPING to found the Grafton Men's Shed 10 years ago on Monday has turned out to be a life changing moment for Frank Heppell.

He arrived in Grafton in April 2005 alone, relocating from Bowral in the Southern Highlands, bringing with him the notion his new home town could benefit from something he had joined down south: a Men's Shed.

At Monday's celebration of the Men's Shed 10th anniversary, Frank will take listener's through the formative stages of the group when a game of golf, the assistance of David Abrahams, Warren Moss, Don Jackson and the generosity of Ron Skinner made the beginning of the organisation possible.

Rather than steal his thunder we will fast forward to April 4, 2012 and the conclusion of Frank's Men's Shed project that changed his life, the tiny teardrop shaped caravan christened IOWNER.

"It changed my life," Frank said of the little home he has now hauled 35,000km around Australia.

"I was just a normal person who never went away far or did much travelling.

"I was about to turn 77 and had never seen much of Australia. Now I've just turned 80 and I've been around the country."

His travels haven't been totally trouble free - he broke a spring near Charleville which needed replacing - but overall he couldn't have been happier.

"You fix her up and you're off again, good as new," he said.

Frank said it was only the facilities and the support he received at the Men's Shed that made his project feasible.

In fact he is midway through another caravan project, with design and construction of an even smaller model, a camper caravan.

Frank says the design will allow its owners a much greater chance to commune with nature.

"It will hold a full double bed mattress, with plenty of storage space," he said.

"The back of it will be a full, fold-out kitchen. I've modified the door at the back so that it can lift up and provide protection when you're cooking and preparing food."

Frank's not sure when his latest project will be finished, but when it is, he'll be looking for a buyer.



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