Home' In The City : In The City - Summer 10 Contents "I make myself available. If they want to give me money,
they'll give it. I don't chase after them. I wouldn't collect if I
had to chase after them. "
This philosophy has served Alan Jessop well in his 22 years
collecting donations for the Salvation Army in Canberra.
"When I first started, the Canberra Centre hadn't been
completed. I've moved all over the place you know. As it's
changed, I've moved around with it, " he says.
Now a regular fixture in the centre, Alan has watched the
city change and evolve. From his worn stool he has seen
Canberrans of all types pass by, some stopping to donate,
while others look right through him.
"I see all different people going past; rich ones, poor ones
and the poor derelict ones -- there are plenty of them around
the street here -- a few outside. You see them all day long. "
"Some (Canberrans) are generous, it's the same as everywhere
else. There's really only a very small percentage of people who
donate you know, not everybody donates. "
Not everyone is as generous with their time as Alan either,
collecting every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, although he is
far too humble to admit it.
Born in Westmead, Alan has lead a fascinating life working as
a ladies' tailor, a plumber, a gas fitter and a dairy farmer, and
owned a number of post offices.
He travelled all over but moved to Canberra with his wife 22
years ago to be closer to his daughter and son-in-law in his
Alan joined the Salvation Army about 30 years ago, but is
keen to play down his effort and dedication.
"I belong to the Salvation Army and when we moved here to
Braddon they needed someone badly to help them with the
street ministry, so I volunteered. "
At 80, he says he continues to collect despite health concerns
"only because there's a big need and there's not too many who
want to do it."
"Salvation Army is only a small church and you know we do
lots of things; an awful lot of things we're involved in, and to do
that we need finance and we rely on the public to help, because
the public expect us to do these things," Alan says.
"We have a drug and rehabilitation program that runs all the
time over at Fyshwick and over at our own church we've got the
rehabilitation program that's involved with our church. We've
got a welfare centre up at Dickson and everybody goes to it if
they're in trouble for clothes, furniture or can't pay their light
bills or gas bills. "
Alan's obvious passion for charity inspires him to collect
donations regularly and almost nothing will stop him.
"I start off at the bus stop in the mornings at 6.40am, and then
I move down the taxation end (of the Canberra Centre) after
that and then I come up to the City Market Chemist. Saturdays
I work upstairs. "
While other people his age are enjoying their retirement, Alan
continues to appear at the Canberra Centre to the delight of
"If I come to work I like to do a good job. I don't just come
in for a little while, " he says. "I've cut my hours back a lot from
what I used to do a few years ago...because I've had two
heart attacks since then...so I've had to reduce the hours that
I work. The wife would like me to reduce them a lot further, but
I'd like to stick at what I'm doing at present. "
Alan's face lights up when he mentions his wife, Joy. The
couple are soon to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary
but he is quick to add they actually started going together
five years before they were married, so he considers it to
be their 60th.
This is just one of the big milestones for Alan this year; he
turned 80 in July, a feat in itself considering just two years
ago doctors didn't believe he had much longer to live.
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008,
Alan continued his charity work, only missing the odd day
for medical appointments. Though, with a cheeky grin,
he admits that fatigue is a side affect of his medication
and he sometimes has a quick nap on his stool.
As selfless as he is, Alan admits that one of the
reasons he continues to do this work is because
there is no one lining up to take his job.
So while he still can, Alan will continue to sit on
his stool, unobtrusively collecting for a charity
he passionately believes in, all the while
quietly watching the world hurry by. But he
can rest assured that after decades of
commitment and tireless hours, he has
made a difference to the Canberra
community and those who need his
help the most.
In the City Spring
Many Canberrans would recognise his face but wouldn't know
his name; Alan Jessop is the familiar Salvation Army officer who
has overcome his own hardships to help Canberrans in need.
BY JONI SCANLON
Photographer: Rohan Thomson
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