He may not be the first person you think of when asked to name some of Christchurch's most influential people. But make no mistake, City Missioner Michael Gorman is towards the top of that list.
Through savvy oversight of the Christchurch City Mission before, during and since the city's earthquakes, Gorman has been one of our behind-the-scenes heroes in troubled times. He has advocated for and exerted influence on behalf of the less fortunate in our community, while recognising that addressing a problem's root cause is more important than providing handouts alone.
Gorman has announced that after just over 12 years in the role it is time to retire. He wants to see the top job at the burgeoning mission go to "maybe a younger, fresher person with new ideas".
If Gorman is feeling jaded, it does not show. He still has enthusiasm for the task and the energy of someone who loves their work, knows they are making a difference and is utterly convinced they are doing what they are meant to be. In many ways it seems a shame to bow out when you are at the top of your game but his successor will appreciate taking up the reins of an organisation which is well supported.
Revealing his retirement intentions this week, Gorman says he is "intensely proud" of what the mission has achieved. He gives credit to staff for carrying out their jobs in often difficult circumstances.
He also says a real highlight has been seeing staff "able to develop people so they can move on with their lives". That, in a nutshell, reflects Gorman's pragmatism when it comes to charity work, that the agency is empowering people to make changes to their situation, whatever it may be, rather than encouraging them to line up again outside the food bank.
An Anglican priest, Gorman was appointed City Missioner in June 2004, calling it a wonderful opportunity to live out his commitment to Christian values. After 20 years as a social worker for Child Youth and Family (CYF), he said he was looking forward to a "change of pace" and being able to "look at the issues and be an advocate", something there had not always been time for at CYF in crisis situations.
Commissioned a month later, he said he expected much of his time would be spent fundraising and being part of a team providing services and resources to those with greater need than most.
Like everyone in Christchurch, he did not know then he would be dealing with something far more difficult – the Canterbury earthquakes. And like almost everyone else now, Gorman considers 2010 and 2011 were the most challenging times of his career, but ones that brought out the best in him and the mission.
The agency helps more than 20,000 people each year. As well as its foodbank, it now has day services for men, a men's night shelter and plans for a women's night shelter. It has overseen the successful Brown Paper Bag Appeal, provided counselling for many and over the years served thousands of people Christmas dinners.
Gorman leaves a mission that is finely tuned to the needs of the community. For his stewardship the city is grateful.