People keep asking Allan Cleave when he plans on retiring from The Salvation Army.
But after 53 years, the 83-year-old isn’t keen just yet.
“How do you spell retire?”
Every second Friday, he spends two hours going around bars between Halswell and Addington in uniform collecting donations.
Three days a week he collects at Halswell New World, and once every couple of months, he heads out to pubs in Selwyn.
Mr Cleave has become an expert at collecting. He said his area does the best in Christchurch.
“In all the years I’ve been doing it, I’ve never been attacked or abused. It’s just the way you do it,” he said.
“My theory is you talk to everybody. If people don’t want to donate, they don’t have to.”
But he said he once had a run in with an Epitaph Riders gang member while collecting at a Lincoln Rd pub.
“I used to get on well with them, I used to give them a bit of cheek and they would give me cheek. But one time a chap followed me out and grabbed me by the collar. He said I almost started a fight. I just got in my car and left. That didn’t deter me,” he said.
“They did make donations, they were a good crowd.”
He also goes out and collects donations without his army hat, because many years ago it was stolen by a cheeky university student at Lincoln’s The Famous Grouse Hotel, he said.
It was his wife Joyce who introduced him to the army through church.
“I asked to take her out one night nearly 61-and-a-half years ago and she said, no, I have to go to church tomorrow.”
They married a year later, and will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in November.
Mr Cleave started collecting shortly after he joined.
He was only meant to be filling in for two weeks, but he enjoyed it too much.
“I love meeting people, I love talking to them.”
On an average night, he would get about $250 dollars. But nowadays people don’t tend to have as many coins.
People tended to be more generous at Christmas, he said.
One time he was collecting near the Halswell New World Lotto stand when a man came over saying he had just won Lotto and gave a $100 note, Mr Cleave said.
But he said it was hard to predict who would donate.
Saturdays used to be the big collection nights. But that had changed to Fridays, he said.
In spite of collecting at pubs, he never drank himself. But he did enjoy a Sarsaparilla, he said
The Salvation Army community ministries Hornby director Major Kevin Waugh said they would not be able to do the work they did without people like Mr Cleave.
“What Allan does and what people give through Allan goes directly to changing lives, helping hundreds of people every year on this side of town.”
The Cleaves have worked with Civil Defence and Victim Support through the army, and Mr Cleave becomes Father Christmas at local events and is a Lions Club member.
They even started a Sunday School in their home. What started with 18 children grew to 85.
Over the years, Mr Cleave has worked in different roles within the army on top of his day job on the railways. But he loves all of them.
In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, helping people and spending time with his family – he had four children, and 10 grandchildren.
Sadly, the Cleaves lost a daughter to cancer and a granddaughter to a crash caused by a drunk driver.
He’s won awards for his work, including the Caltex Unsung Hero award in 2000. But he said that’s not why he does it. He just wants to help.