Volunteer recognised after 20 years selling War Cry magazine

published on 13 May 2024

Pat Donkin Wetherby

A Salvation Army volunteer who has been selling the War Cry - the official magazine for the church and charity - for 20 years has been honoured for her role serving the community. 

Whatever the weather, Pat Donkin, 77, can be seen at Wetherby Market in West Yorkshire every Thursday collecting donations for the church and charity. She raises about £3,000 a year which goes back into the community. 

Pat was recently ‘highly commended’ at an awards evening for inspirational women organised by Harrogate Soroptimists, who are part of an international women’s voluntary organisation working to improve the lives of women and girls at a local, national and international level.

Pat, who received a certificate at a ceremony at the Wesley Centre in the town in front of 160 people, first became involved with The Salvation Army when she worked as a cleaner for Salvation Army officers who then supported her through a tricky time in her home life. 

Pat said: “It was amazing for me to hear how much money has been raised from me doing this and it all goes back into the community. I did not expect the award at all, it was lovely. I was up on stage and although it was terrifying to start with, it was nice to be recognised and for the Salvation Army to be recognised. 

Pat Donkin Wetherby

“It started 20 years ago when I stood in for the lady who used to sell the War Cry. I was talking to her and she said ‘here, I’m going for a coffee’ and pushed the tin at me. I said ‘no I can’t do this!’ and she said ‘yes you can’ and I had this tin thinking ‘don’t come over to me’ as I didn’t want to talk to people, I was too shy. Now I sit here thinking ‘I’ve got a tin, come over!’

“It really helped my confidence. Before, I was stood here not wanting to talk to people, but isn’t it strange that it’s now the opposite and now I’m here every week sitting and talking to people. I like spreading the word. I talk to a lot more people now, people I might have known all my life but wouldn’t have necessarily spoken to before. You get to know people and you get to know people’s stories. 

“I am here come rain or shine, I hide under a shelter if the weather is bad or I will go in the café because people know I am there, everyone knows where to find me. I can see myself doing this forever. If I can’t do it because the weather is really bad, I get in a mood!” 

Wetherby Salvation Army is a Salvation Army ‘fresh expression’, meaning it doesn’t operate from a traditional church building but is embedded in the community in other ways. Until last year, it was based at a school, but for now is without a building so having Pat at the market each week has proved vital in connecting with the local community. 

I am here come rain or shine, I hide under a shelter if the weather is bad or I will go in the café because people know I am there, everyone knows where to find me.

Captain Yvonne West, who leads Wetherby Salvation Army, said: “Everybody knows Pat, she’s become a local celebrity. If she’s not here one Thursday people will come and say ‘what have you done with Pat?!’ Everybody cares where she is. She is the face of Wetherby Salvation Army, she’s always in uniform, including hat, and is such a good advert for the church.  

“By doing this she raises about £3,000 a year which goes back to the community via The Salvation Army. She’s one of our biggest advocates and really gets what The Salvation Army is and what we want to achieve in Wetherby.

“When there are the big Salvation Army campaigns running, especially at Christmas time, people will just come up to her and give her money for it. For a lot of people their connection with The Salvation Army is through Pat. 

“It’s hard to measure, but I think 50 or 60 people will come and talk to her and drop a few coins in the tin every Thursday. For a lot of people, Pat might be the only person they talk to that day. It’s that journey into the town on a Thursday, a trip to the market and to say hello to Pat.  

“Especially after Covid when people had been at home isolating, they would come to Pat and tell their stories. This led to us starting our ‘coffee ministry’ where we set up shop in a nearby café and Pat could signpost people who wanted some help or just a chat. This is something we have continued doing to this day and that all came from Pat sitting here recognising that need was there. We couldn’t do it without her.” 

While looking for new premises, Wetherby Salvation Army continues to support people in the community hosting a friendship group, bible study and Sunday worship, as well as one-to-one support. 

Salvation Army Officer having a cup of tea with a resident at one of our lifehouses

Support our work

Help us to continue to be there for people in their hour of need.