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Canberra’s friendliest face still collecting despite COVID

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You may not know his name, but Alan Jessop is as much a Canberra icon as Telstra Tower, ONA Coffee and the bridge-to-bridge.

Because Alan is the Salvation Army soldier who collects donations in his wooden box at Canberra Centre rain, hail or shine. It’s well reported that across three decades, Alan has collected over $4 million dollars for the Salvos.

Despite only moving to Canberra from Sydney in the 1980s, Alan is a beloved fixture of Canberra—so much so that even during COVID restrictions, he’s still helping raise money for those in need—just not as you’d expect.

A corflute of Alan has today been unveiled in his regular spot near Coles with a contactless tap-and-go donation machine—a necessary step to protect this beloved Canberran who turns 90 in July.

“Canberra Centre has always been an amazing supporter of the Salvation Army [but] obviously with COVID-19 Alan needs to stay home and look after himself and his wife,” says Lieutenant Mitchell Stevens of The Salvation Army.

However, Mitchell and his team wanted to find a way for Alan to continue collecting, especially given their annual Red Shield Appeal is now in progress.

Luckily, a corflute of Alan had been kept from the 2019 Red Shield Appeal and Canberra Centre was more than happy to facilitate a tap-and-go donation—especially as it meant keeping Alan’s legacy going.

“Alan has become such a recognisable identity and a big part of the Canberra Centre community that it would be a shame to go without his presence while we navigate COVID-19,” says Canberra Centre General Manager Gary Stewart.

“Thanks to technology and some clever thinkers, we will be able to keep Alan’s fundraising efforts going while our city adapts to the pandemic. Here at Canberra Centre, we want to continue to support the community in these trying and uncertain times. If you are in the centre and have the means to be able to make a small donation to our ‘stand-in’ Alan, we’d love for you to do so.”

Mitchell hopes that Alan’s presence will help fuel donations during the Salvos’ critical Red Shield Appeal, adding that “like everyone, the Salvos have felt the financial pinch of COVID”.

He’s hoping that a successful 2020 Appeal will allow them to continue to help vulnerable Canberrans through these uncertain times, though he admits this is especially difficult given they cannot collect in person.

“Alan normally collects anything from $120,000-140,000 annually and if he’s [at home] for six months, that money to run our services is going to be dramatically decreased.”

“So this tap-and-go machine is a wonderful thing—both for donations and also for Alan’s presence in the community.”

DONATE TO THE SALVOS RED SHEILD APPEAL 2020

You can donate to the Salvos Red Shield appeal at www.salvationarmy.org.au/donate

Feature image: via Facebook

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