Much-loved Canberra figure Alan Jessop has a ‘stand-in’ at the Canberra Centre (near Coles) collecting donations for the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal for the month of May. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

Alan Jessop is a familiar face for those passing through the Canberra Centre, having collected donations for the Salvation Army for 30 years, and his presence there continues – albeit in a different form.

‘Virtual Alan’ was installed at the Canberra Centre on Monday 18 May and will continue collecting donations for the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal till the end of the month via a contactless tap-and-go machine.

The decision to install a ‘Virtual Alan’ was due to the Centre being unable to safely welcome Mr Jessop inside for the first time in over 30 years as a result of COVID-19.

“He is a much-loved figure in the community but, at almost 90 years of age and in the current environment, he needed to consider his health,” Gary Stewart, General Manager of the Canberra Centre, said. “To see his face there has been very well received.”

The Canberra Centre are long-term partners of the Salvation Army and Mr Stewart said the initiative taps into the goodwill the community has for Mr Jessop. He is hopeful people will donate during this difficult time.

The Salvation Army’s Major David McMurray said the idea to have a static donation point “is fantastic because it means Alan can be there virtually when he can’t be there”.

“Alan has been a long-term member of the Salvation Army. His commitment to the task of being available to the public to donate to our work comes from working knowledge of what’s being done in the community.”

Major McMurray especially welcomed the Canberra Centre’s ‘stand-in’ as the organisation prepares to provide hardship support on an unprecedented scale.

“We anticipate seeing some of the greatest need that we’ve ever seen in our 140-year history serving Australians.

“The COVID-19 crisis has financially crippled many Australians and the impact it is having will be felt for many, many months to come.”

Major McMurray said while there has been a surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvos are expecting it will get worse once the primary phase has passed due to a general community-wide decline in lifestyle and living.

The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal Digital Doorknock is on this weekend, 23-24 May. To donate, tap and go at ‘Virtual Alan’ in the Canberra Centre (ground floor near Coles) or visit digitaldoorknock.salvationarmy.org.au and click on ‘Support my local Salvos’. Enter your postcode or suburb and help support the Salvos already working in the community. Funds raised will stay in the region to help fund local initiatives.

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