Community rallies for elderly theft victim

By Katie Holland of the Daily Post

Gavin Hayes with his new car. Photo / Stephen Parker
Gavin Hayes with his new car. Photo / Stephen Parker

Pensioner Gavin Hayes has a new car on the way and a smile back on his face, thanks to Rotorua's generosity.

Last week, the 82-year-old had lost the will to live after a teenage girl allegedly stole and wrote off his car. It was the second car he'd had stolen in recent months, during which young people had been entering his flat and stealing from him.

Since The Daily Post printed his story on Tuesday, offers of money and support for Mr Hayes have flooded in from Rotorua and around New Zealand.

Car rental firm Rent-a-Dent is giving him a free car next week, and have dropped off one for him to use in the meantime.

Facebook page Gift for Gav and a collection at What's Cooking Lunch Bar by yesterday had raised more than $1000, which is likely to go towards car insurance and running costs. Rotorua's Arawa Auto Electrical has donated a car alarm and installation while anonymous donors have dropped $115 into The Daily Post offices.

Throw in appearances on TV3's Campbell Live and TVNZ's Te Karere and it's no wonder Mr Hayes has been left feeling completely overwhelmed.

"It has been amazing. It's too much, really," he said.

"I don't expect all this. It makes me feel good but it will take a little while to come to terms with it."

Mr Hayes said he had received numerous offers of food, rides around town, lifts and bus tickets to visit his wife's grave in Taumarunui, a decoder and security systems. He was even offered a car by a stranger in Katikati but thanks to Rent-a-Dent that's not going to be necessary.

The company's national franchisor Dean Hansen said Rotorua franchise owner Mark Windelborn had contacted him about the story and he decided to gift Mr Hayes a vehicle from their rental fleet.

"We had to do what we could to help him," said Mr Hansen. "I can't believe that people can do this to an old guy like that. New Zealand was never like this back in his earlier days. Hopefully, this will pick him up."

Rotorua's Michelle Hope is one of the creators of the Gift for Gav Facebook page which originally aimed to raise $3000 for a new car.

She said as of yesterday 30 people had made donations ranging from $2 to $100, for a total of $831. However she expected that to have doubled by today.

"We are still aiming for $3000 [even though he now has a car] so we can get other stuff he needs," she said.

Mr Hayes' great niece posted on the Facebook page thanking those who had donated.

She described her Uncle Gabby as "too generous and kind for his own good" and said he "will help anyone".

"It's so good when he is mobile; it gives him his independence as he says and keeps him alive," she wrote.

Mr Hayes said he supposed it was possible he could be targeted again, however he now had neighbours keeping a close eye on him and had learned to be a little less trusting.

"I will be a bit more careful about who I let in."

He said it would "take a while" before he was back to normal again, but agreed the amazing response from the community had been a huge boost.

"I can only thank them. I just want to thank everybody for all the help."

- APNZ

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