A badly aimed ball was the catalyst for Allan Luscombe’s volunteering with the Salvation Army.
Mr Luscombe is Volunteering Mid and South Canterbury’s latest volunteer of the month, and has received a certificate recognising his commitment and dedication to the Timaru community, a voucher from Timaru restaurant Monteith’s and a volunteer pin.
A baker since he left high school, Mr Luscombe’s life took a different turn when he went to retrieve a ball that went over the fence.
“The grandsons threw a ball over the fence, and we had a grumpy neighbour, so I jumped on our apricot tree to go and get it, fell backwards and broke my Achilles tendon.
“I was off work for so long I lost my job.”
As part of his rehabilitation, the ACC organised for Mr Luscombe to volunteer with the Salvation Army, sharing the skills he’d honed in the workforce over the years.
He volunteered for about a year, but then was able to head back to work, so gave up his role.
“Then I retired from baking and I came back here. I’ve been here about six years this time.
“When I retired, the first thing the doctor asked was, ‘What are you going to do with your spare time?’ He said men don’t have the social skills women do, and when they retire, they just don’t get out and mix, so he was quite happy I was doing this.”
Corps officer Lieutenant Jacob Howan said the Salvation Army was more than happy to have Mr Luscombe back in charge of the foodbank, where he kept an eye on stock coming in and going out, made up about 120 parcels a month, rotated stock, checked expiry dates and ordered goods.
“He’s our mainstay. It’s a job in itself – it’s really quite mind-boggling.
“Allan is really good at trying to make the best of what we have had donated and making it a really good parcel.”
He kept an eye on clients’ needs, such as if they were gluten intolerant and worked “to make the parcels as useful as possible”.
Mr Luscombe said he came into the Salvation Army two mornings a week, but was happy to come in at other times to help out – if a Scout group was coming to visit, for example, he could explain how a foodbank operated.
It was a nice change from the generally antisocial hours a baker had to keep, and brought him benefits too.
“It gives you a purpose – you’re giving something back.”
When he’s not helping out at the Salvation Army, Mr Luscombe can often be found at the Timaru Bridge Club rooms, setting up and closing up, directing evenings and mentoring learners.
“I’m very lucky – my wife doesn’t moan.”
Lt Howan said the Salvation Army was heavily reliant on volunteers.
“We wouldn’t be able to do half of what we do without volunteers. If we tried to run just on paid staff we would be struggling very quickly. We wouldn’t be doing the numbers of food parcels
“We certainly don’t want to lose Allan. It would be quite a dent in our operation if we were having to start from scratch again.”
For those who think they might not have any useful skills to offer as a volunteer, Mr Luscombe has a simple answer.
“How do you know until you try it?”
To nominate someone for the award or inquire about volunteering, call Lou Billinghurst on (03) 687-7364, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or pop into the office at Community House at 27 Strathallan St.