AN EXCITING new community project is under way in Clunes, which will benefit young families with children.
Clunes Men's Shed has been in possession of an historic yellow and green Melbourne tram, number 865, for quite a while.
While it was originally sourced by member Richard Gilbert to be restored and used as a social space for club members, as the pandemic evolved they came to realise they needed to find a bigger space to continue operating.
As such, they started searching for a big shed instead and the decision was made to donate the tram, which used to run along Racecourse Road, to Clunes Neighbourhood House and work with them to refurbish it for the benefit of the whole community.
Neighbourhood House manager, Lana de Kort, said the tram would be a valued additional space for community use.
Becoming the owner of the tram has provided an "exciting" opportunity for the Neighbourhood House to create another space to support the needs of families with young children - identified as a priority when the Clunes Community Plan was drawn up in 2015.
With funding recently acquired, the Neighbourhood House is currently planning the development of a community toy library, to be housed in the tram.
Ms de Kort said a toy library would give families something to 'belong' to in the town, while also creating opportunities for their children to nurture their imaginations.
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A toy library works just as a normal library does: families sign up for a membership and regularly borrow and return toys to swap for new ones.
The toys would be provided by an organisation, with the tram used as a venue to store the toys and facilitate the exchanges. It is also envisaged to be a place for families to connect with others.
The toy library could also be managed through any stage of restrictions, with delivery also possible.
"That will provide us with an opportunity to keep connected with families and ultimately reduce isolation," Ms de Kort added.
The tram requires some work but will be refurbished in a way which both retains its historical features and transforms it into an inclusive facility.
"We will maintain a lot of the historical integrity because preserving and integrating history into the way we live is a big part of what people in Clunes value," Ms de Kort said. "But we are also creating space so that it is accessible for wheelchairs and prams."
The tram, now at the back of the Neighbourhood House at 70 Bailey Street, has been placed in a spot where a water tower was once located - alongside a section of rail track from when the site was a factory.
"It's really blended in nicely with the rest of the grounds," Ms de Kort said.
It will complement the existing facilities at the Neighbourhood House - which includes the Food is Free stand, where emergency relief is being provided, the outdoor playground and other spaces for community works.
It is anticipated that the project will be completed by early next year.
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