Tuesday, December 29, 2009

51st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Axis of Good
After lunch on Sunday I drove down Cherry toward Broadway to make a couple of stops. As I got back in the Cabriolet with the first pickup I noticed Bill Richards our association president in the next block walk across Cherry from the Axis Food Mart on the corner to his home and go inside his gate. Guess he saw me, too, because he came out again with a can of string beans in his hand. “Great,” I said as I drove up, “curb service.”

Bill smiled at my joke and then pointed to a figure in the Axis Food Mart parking lot. “Do you see that guy?” he asked, “he’s the new owner of the food mart and he wants to talk to you about One Can A Week.” I always want to talk to people about One Can A Week so I drove up to the front of the store and parked.

The owner came out from behind the counter when I approached and gave me a very friendly greeting. In the next 20 minutes he learned about One Can A Week and I learned about Maen Mdanat, a fascinating man who tries to do one good thing every day. Today he’s selected One Can A Week. He wants to begin the program in his store and he can’t start soon enough.

“What food should I offer to my customers to donate?” he asked while taking out a pen and little pad. I mentioned tuna, black beans, and peanut butter. “Oh, peanut butter is too expensive, how about sardines, I love sardines.”

As he spoke he began writing from the right side of the paper and noticed I was staring. “That’s Arabic.” His English is so good and nuanced that I could not tell where he was from originally. His slight accent gave no clues. But it was only after he spoke about his church, Saint something or other, I can’t recall the name exactly, that I just had to ask.

Jordan. He came to the USA when he was around 27 years old. Prior to that he was in Jordan’s Special Forces and was often called on to act as an interpreter because he not only speaks Arabic, but English and Magyar the Hungarian language as well. On one occasion he interpreted at a meeting with King Hussein and the infamous Nicolae Ceau┼čescu of Romania.

“That was very stressful,” Maen said, “because you really have to know the culture in addition to the language. For example, if someone says, “can of worms’, you just cannot say can of worms because the other party may wonder about the strange diet so you have to think of something to quickly explain the expression.

“You know, I think King Hussein liked me,” Maen admitted,
“because I’m a shorty and he was a shorty, too. After that meeting he came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said I did a good job. That made me feel very good and calmed me down. I didn’t have to worry about whether I was good or bad. I knew.”

Today after delivering our Miles donations, I picked up a large Community Food Bank box and dropped it off at Axis. Maen hurriedly taped up the box and put it right by the front door next to the soda machine. We chatted a few minutes and he asked me to stay around because his favorite distributor, Carl from Coors would arrive soon. He said Carl always helps him raise funds for his church and he should hear about One Can A Week from me. A short time later Seham, his wife and their three young children drove up. In between customers Maen introduced me to his family and then in walked Carl. The whole scene reminded me of a fast paced play where the actors quickly come onto the stage from all directions moving the plot dizzyingly forward.

Maen called just before dinner to ask me when I would have the counter signs ready for him. Our plan is to help educate his customers about the need and the work the Community Food Bank is doing to meet that need. I said tomorrow but he couldn’t wait for the signage and started offering cans for donations a couple of hours ago. Nearly every customer bought a donation can when asked. Actually I think that is why he called. He needed to share his excitement. “It’s amazing,” Maen said, “even a homeless man, after paying for his beer, dug into his pocket for change to pay for the donation. He’s in trouble and even he wants to help.”

With Maen’s energetic charisma supported by his incredible cast of characters I predict that One Can A Week will be a monster hit at the Axis Food Mart. After all, the store is located on Broadway.

Another Overflowing Basket

We have been donating food to the Community Food Bank for 51 straight weeks and just look at the amount and variety. The generosity is boundless here in the Miles Neighborhood and you all should be very proud of your efforts and community service. This week we donated 192 lbs. of food (30 lbs. over our average) and $27 in cash.

Happy New Year to all!

See you Sunday,


Monday, December 21, 2009

50th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Wishful Thinking
Thursday my friend Mike Bolchalk forwarded an email to me from Roger Yohem, a reporter and columnist with Inside Tucson Business. Roger was looking “for thoughts of a select group of business leaders” here in Tucson of which Mike is surely one. The question? “…what is at the top of your “Business Wish List” for 2010? The wish must (can) be for your business, the community, the overall economy, or some other business-related topic. Mike wanted to know what I thought about the request because I am never at a loss for words when it comes to community or business. I sent him a couple of opinions and put it out of my mind.

In the mail that same day Al my neighbor who lives just 3 houses down sent me a sparkly, very warm Christmas card of an old pickup truck with a Christmas tree in its bed driving down a snow covered residential street. Al loves old pickups. He’s got a couple of them in various stages of disrepair in his driveway along the side of his house. He doesn’t care, they are pickups. He also loves his religion, the Republican Party and cats…lots of cats. We met when I asked him if I could help him spay and neuter his brood which was expanding because his back troubles slowed him down so much he couldn’t get to the vet. Sixteen fixed cats later we are friends and neighbors who look out for each other.

The note inside Al’s Christmas card made me think again about Mike’s “Wish Lists for 2010” email. Al wrote: “Whether or not you realize it, you have been fulfilling Jesus’ command in Matt 25 verses 35 to 40, as well as your kindness to animals.” Every Sunday as I was growing up I heard priests read lots of verses from all of the Books of the bible so I was sure I knew the lesson but I wasn’t familiar with that particular location in the good book. Google quickly told me what Al was referring to and I was right, I had heard the verses before. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…”

On my drive home from the office on Friday afternoon I finally decided what my wish for 2010 will be. I would like to live in a world where we take care of each other; then we will all experience at least one heaven for sure.

First Christmas
Just wanted to wish everyone who helped the Miles Neighborhood donate thousands upon thousands of pounds of food to the Community Food Bank a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

More Cereal and More Food
In addition to her regular food donation, Kelly on Miles Street had five huge double pack boxes of Cheerios waiting for me when I stopped by Sunday. Her sister Debby is a member of the East Side Domestic Divas and they heard the Community Food Bank’s call for cereal so they decided
to do something about it. The boxes are so big that Kelly had to help me carry them to the Cabriolet. Thanks in part to the Divas, we collected 222 lbs. of food, 10 lbs. of produce, $22 in cash, $35 in checks and a partridge in a pear tree. Lists make me capricious this time of year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

See you Sunday,


Monday, December 14, 2009

49th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Welcome Back Barrio San Antonio
There were two more houses on 12th Street to hit. I pulled the gear shift out of park and into drive and looked up to see Lori and Dennis walk toward the front of my car smiling from ear to ear and carrying a large plastic bag. They surprised me because I hadn’t seen them park their truck at the curb just 30 feet ahead of me. Guess I was too focused on putting the food in the back seat and getting situated behind the wheel. I jumped out of the car to greet them.

“We just collected this food from the Barrio San Antonio,” Lori said. “It was fun but scary.”

I had not expected that they would just start collecting food in the neighborhood because for the past week I was trying to ease them into the process by first meeting with Aisling who collected food there a few months back. Guess they aren’t into easing. They said they started in the back portion of the neighborhood and covered a few blocks. Some folks gave them food. Other said they would be ready next week. Lori and Dennis also said that a number of neighbors told them to keep up the good work even though it was their first Sunday. They found those words very encouraging.

When I asked them how it felt to walk up to a home, knock on the door and ask for a food donation, they both got a little uneasy. “That’s the hard part,” Dennis replied, “but I can tell once you make the initial calls, it gets easy, even fun collecting the food.”

His words reminded me of something I recently read about Presidents Obama in his book The Audacity of Hope when he got into politics and had to make cold calls drumming up donations for his first campaign.

“You know that hollow or insecure feeling you have in your gut when knocking on the door,” I asked, “we all get that even President Obama. He said when confronted with making those calls, he used to take frequent bathroom breaks, go for coffee a lot and talk about fine-tuning his speeches with his staff. Anything to avoid the dreaded calls.”

They laughed and I could see they felt better. “It’s painful, “Lori admitted, “but soon we will know everyone in the neighborhood and those calls will be done. And besides, look at all the food we just collected.”

They’re going to be good at One Can A Week. It’s obvious they like responsibility because they just jumped right in.

SHS (Scott Hughes Solution)
Tucson has scores of housing developments and communities where door to door solicitation is verboten by the association even if one is a resident in the community. I have been thinking about a way to introduce One Can A Week to these often upscale residences but to no avail. Then today my business partner told me about his best friend Scott who has introduced One Can A Week into his community with little fanfare but it’s working like a charm.

Instead of visiting his neighbors one by one, he puts up a sign on the communal mailboxes (the associations don’t even like the postman going door to door) asking for food donations for the Community Food Bank. He provides a box by the mailboxes every Wednesday where his neighbors can drop off their One Can A Week.

This is brilliant. They are near their homes and they go to get their mail six days a week. It is a routine, not a hardship as delivering a can a week to the office or school would be. Instead of putting the donation on their porches, they put it in a box by the mailboxes. This is the next best thing to a porch. Scott picks up the boxes of food Wednesday night and repeats the process the next week. Then every month Scott will post the amount of food they have collected to keep his neighbors informed and motivated.

The best way One Can A Week works is to pick up the food from neighbors weekly. But Scott may have just invented another best way to get solicitation-free communities involved. Great going, Scott!

Christmas Greeting from Carol & Colin
My neighbors who live in the big house (I live in the guest or small house in the back) are always my first stop on Sundays. They weren’t home so I was about to stick a Sorry We Missed You card in the steel screen door when I noticed a large envelope addressed to me on the porch next to the door. Guess it didn’t fit in the mail box so the postman left it there yesterday. By the return label I could see it was from Carol and Colin in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I hurried back to the car to see what was inside. They are the mother and son team who collect food for the hungry soldiers at their local VFW.

I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. The Christmas card slid out first. I love dogs and cats and smiled. I didn’t recognize the other animal right away but later saw the tiniest image was a mouse. That’s when I got the sentiment…Peace on Earth…a dog and a cat and a mouse who are often at odds enjoying the spirit of the holiday. Of course I was touched, especially by the kind words they wrote inside. They also sent along a unique gift, a bumper sticker. I never put decals on my car but I just had to make an exception in this case. It’s a gift from Carol and Colin and says, “Got One Can A Week?” Peace on earth worked on me, too.

There is Humor in Everything
In our last Miles Neighborhood meeting I asked Abe Marques our 5th Ward representative what will it take to get the scores of potholes fixed on our streets? I knew from past discussions that you have to call the city and give them a house address that is in proximity to the damaged street. So I told Abe I would drive around and get a location on each pothole and give him the list. He said if he had a list he would be happy to handle it. A day or so after I emailed my pothole list (22 in all) to Abe, my friend Ernesto Portillo, Sr. told me he just heard on the radio that the street maintenance budget was stretched and besides, the temperature was 55 degrees and heading south. Like me, I guess pothole filler doesn’t work well in the cold.

As I left for work two days following my conversation with Ernesto I noticed all of the potholes were fixed. Way to go Abe! I thank you and my axles thank you. In the next day or so if you could call Abe Marques at 791-4231 to thank him or simply send him an email at abe.marques@tucsonaz.gov I certainly would appreciate it. Or you can join me at our monthly Miles Neighborhood meeting this Wednesday, December 16th at 6:30 pm in the Miles School and thank him personally. That’s what I am going to do.

I did notice one rather large pothole surrounded by a bunch of budding potholes that was not repaired. It is on Miles Street in front of my friend’s house. (See photo on right.) I thought perhaps the oversight might have something to do with my friend’s political affiliation in our decidedly Obama neighborhood. Just kidding! Abe will have that nasty pothole fixed in no time now that he knows about it.

Two Shopping Carts, Two Stories
Kim and Mario on 13th Street had a party Saturday and they asked all of their invited guests to just bring themselves and a food donation for the Community Food Bank. With their added support we collected 230 lbs. of food this week (our average is 162 lbs.) and $170 in cash and checks. And notice that even the Rice A Roni got into the holiday festivities.

For the past two weeks the Community Food Bank through the media has been asking folks to donate breakfast cereal because they are experiencing a shortage. Miles folks got the message and added a number of huge boxes of cereal to their regular donations. Imagine if all of Tucson’s neighborhoods were participating in One Can A Week. The Community Food Bank could put out a special call one week and meet their demands the next. I can see it happening … we just need to keep on pressing forward.

See you Sunday,


Monday, December 7, 2009

48th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Moving On Up
Brian Simpson is in our news again. Remember, he’s the Director of Communications at the Association of Arizona Food Banks in Phoenix. Just today he sent me an email saying, “Good news! Mark…(B. Evans the editor of TucsonCitizen.com)…wants you to email him to work out the details, but transitioning your blog to TucsonCitizen.com is yours for the taking!” That’s not good news…that’s great news.

On the TucsonCitizen.com home page they say “Their goal is to provide a Web site that gives voice to people who want to inform their community about issues that might not attract the attention of the daily newspaper or TV news and to provide their fellow citizens different points of view about the issues of the day that differ from that of the dominant editorial voice in the city – the Arizona Daily Star.”

Best of all the TucsonCitizen.com blog has a Google PageRank of 6 which means a lot of folks check out the blog every day. OneCanAWeek.blogspot.com has readers, too, but not so many. Sometimes it just a folk or maybe two a day.

This move to TucsonCitizen.com will really help us tell our story to a wider audience and shows that we are serious about ending hunger here in Tucson. We can do it. All we have to do is stick and stay because One Can A Week has a bit of magic as I have said before. You give a weekly food donation. I collect your donation. And good things happen to move us forward. It never ceases to make me blink in wonder.

The Rodney Williams’ Saturday Night Live Access Show
Early last week Brian Simpson, Director of Communications at the Association of Arizona Food Banks in Phoenix put me in touch with Rodney who has an hour TV show on Access Tucson that airs at 9 pm every Saturday. He calls his show “Face it, It’s Over, Rodney Williams Dismantling the Myth of Racism.” I spent the next few days trying to see how One Can A Week would fit into the format.

To my surprise, quite easily because Rodney is charming and erudite. He opens the show talking about the demise of racism and then spends the rest of the time featuring musical talent, community concerns and community projects. My 15 minutes in the studio lights worked out well except for the stumble when I was introduced. Rodney said I was there to talk about ending poverty in Tucson through the One Can A Week program. My first thought was “now how the heck was I going to do that?” But than I smiled and got us quickly back on track.

When I returned home I check Google Analytics and saw that a couple of people visited our One Can A Week web site that day. Who says no one watches Access Cable TV?

Learning the Ropes
On Sunday Lori and Dennis Trujillo from 13th Street joined Barbara and Lenny on 12th Street to see what it is really like to collect One Can A Week from the neighbors. They thought it fun and really easy so they spent a number of minutes discussing the cost and the whereabouts of the white shopping carts. Lenny turned out to be quite knowledgeable on the subject encouraging Lori and Dennis to head to Big Lots! because they will pay just $9 for each cart. “Some stores charge up to $20 for these carts, “Lenny said, “so Big Lots! is the answer.” I can tell you this, the next time I have some unusual item I have to buy, I’m going to pass it by Lenny first, that’s for sure.

A Finger Licking Good Idea
At the Miles Neighborhood Fun Day Sunday the event organizer Josie Zapata shows a young neighbor how to coat a pine cone with peanut butter and then roll it around in bird seed before hanging it on a tree in the yard. The little guy spread as much peanut butter on his fingers as the pine cone just to make sure he had the proper peanut butter to bird seed ratio called for by the design.

Even the Troubled Think of the Needy
December 1st Lisa Marie on Cherry Avenue sent me an email telling me some sad news about one of our neighborhood businesses. This is what she wrote:
“First off, thanks for continuing to do such wonderful work. I feel good every time I can provide a can or two...you make it so easy to contribute.
“Secondly: I was just at Axis Market and was devastated to hear that they will be closing their doors permanently this weekend over a lease agreement dispute. I mentioned to the owner that you have created a strong community organization that collects food for the Food Bank and suggested any items in the store he can't sell/redistribute might be donated to the Food Bank in the Miles Neighborhood name. I'm willing to pick-up any left-over food goods from Axis on Friday, and hold them at my home until Sunday's pick-up, but you might want to stop by to reinforce the idea ;)…“

I did stop by to introduce myself to the Axis people and learned that their monthly rent was increased $700 so they had to close. On Sunday Kym called me to say she was at Lisa Marie’s home and there was a lot of food but no one answered the door. Kym did not know if she should take it. I told her it was okay and explained why.

The container the Axis Market gave us was huge and brimming with food. Based on our weekly average I was able to determine just how much they donated. This week’s total was 210 lbs. of food, 1 lb. of a non food item and $8 in cash. Since our food donation averages around 162 lbs., we can assume the Axis Market gave the Community Food Bank 48 lbs. of food. I am happy for the donation but sorry to see our friends go. I always thought it interesting that people had feelings for Axis and talked about their good experience there, but never said a word about the Circle K just across the street which provides a similar service. No matter where the Axis Market owner goes I hope he realizes he made a difference in our Miles Neighborhood.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

47th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

It’s Just a Matter of Time
Saturday evening my neighbor Erin asked me to help her remove a nasty virus from her computer. She had spent the better part of the day trying to remove it herself but to no avail. After about 30 minutes I was starting to gain some ground on the vermin when Erin commented on my composure. “You’re so calm,” she said. “Right now I’d be pulling out my hair and clicking on everything.”

Calm, I thought that word funny because she should have seen me earlier in the day when I had lunch with Brian Simpson, the Director of Communications for the Association of Arizona Food Banks. I spent the better part of two hours discussing my frustration with the pace of One Can A Week outside the Miles neighborhood. Brian is sure a good listener which is what I needed. He also came up with some fine suggestions on how to expand my media horizons.

By Sunday morning I was peaceful again because I love getting my clipboard and things ready and prepping my Cabriolet for my food collection run. As I near the west end of Miles Lenny from 12th Street always calls to tell me he and Barbara are finished with their collections. When I drove up to Lenny’s home he hurried out pulling his overflowing cart. “I have lots of money, too,” Lenny said. “Mike and Tamara collected $145 from someplace called the Sanctuary. My minds going, I can’t remember the whole name. I said it a few time to myself as I walked over to Barbara on the other side of the street then suddenly it was gone.”

To make him feel better I said the same thing happens to me with names. It didn’t have much of an effect. I also told Lenny I would stop by and see Mike and Tamara to get all of the details for my update. Lenny smiled. “Thanks, that’ll work.”

Rock Stars in the Neighborhood
After lunch and before heading to 13th Street I stopped by Mike’s house to ask about Sanctuary something. It turns out that Tamara, also known as DJ Plastic Disease and Mike, a member of the Alter Der Ruine band are not only prominent musicians here in Tucson but tour the country promoting themselves, their music and important causes like animal shelters and food banks. Saturday night they performed at Club Sanctuary downtown —oh, that sanctuary— and asked their fans to donate to the Community Food Bank.

As we parted Mike said he would check out our blog and become more familiar with One Can A Week. Then on the road he would try and encourage others across the country to get involved. And to think two musical stars live just three doors down from Lenny.

Stepping Up
Kym was being a dutiful grandmother this weekend and attending her grand kids’ soccer matches out of town so I was helping her with 13th Street. As I walked back to my car to unload my first round of collections, Lori and Dennis flagged me down. “How do we volunteer for One Can A Week?” Lori asked. “We’re ready to help.”

Those are my favorite words but I was a bit surprised. I had just taken a can from their son as I had done for lots of Sundays and not seen his folks much but now here they are standing before me asking to help. They knew Kym collected on 13th Street usually but they said they would collect anywhere near the neighborhood. Right away I thought of the Barrio San Antonio just across the walkway. They participated for over 12 weeks but the neighborhood coordinators got too busy to continue. And there’s the Arroyo Chico Apartments. They immediately agreed and said they would meet me next Sunday to learn the ropes. Well, that was exciting.

With all of the neighbor chit chat I finally finished 1 minute after 4 pm which is about an hours and a half more than it normally takes me. A couple of my neighbors on Manlove, the last of my route, even mentioned my tardiness. “I thought you were sick, maybe, she said handing me her usual can of Campbell soup, “don’t you get sick, we need you.” I promised I wouldn’t.

It Gets Even Better
When I walked in my door I noticed I had an email in the inbox so I got a glass of cold water and plopped down in the chair. What a surprise. It was from Bobby Rich at Mix-FM. I had dropped off the New York Times and Huffington Post articles at the station Tuesday and was told to send him an email because he would be the one to review our One Can A Week idea. When I checked out their website I understood why. Mr. Rich along with the help of his listeners and a matching grant from Tucson Electric Power recently collected over 9,000 lbs of food and over $120,000.

Here’s my email.

Dear Mr. Rich,

I am as concerned about the hungry folks here in Tucson as you are. That is why 11 months ago I started One Can A Week in my Miles neighborhood which is located near Broadway and Campbell. It is my own personal community service program that blossomed into something way beyond anything I imagined.

In one year I will have collected and donated to the Community Food Bank over 9,000 lbs. of food from 120 or so of my neighbors. You accomplished the same goal in one day. That is why I am contacting you.

Imagine if every one of Tucson's 187 recognized neighborhoods participated in the One Can A Week food donation program. Hunger would be eliminated in Tucson. This can be accomplished simply by finding a "coordinator" such as me in the other 185 neighborhoods. (Ironwood Ridge is also collecting One Can A Week.)

With your ability to influence your listeners, I know we will be able to find volunteers who will enjoy becoming a Bobby Rich or Mix-FM Neighborhood Coordinator. Then we can have a food drive every week without promoting on the air week after week. All we will have to do is talk about the weekly totals the neighborhood coordinators collect. And, too, we can collect diapers all year around. (You may know that this is Mr. Rich’s personal annual drive.)

There is another aspect of this program that has excited both Feeding America and the Corporation for Community and National Service in Washington, DC (Serve.gov). They like One Can A Week because it enlists whole neighborhoods in community service. And by the way, those two national organizations helped introduce me to The New York Times and USA Today.

I would like to meet with you for a half hour to explain the One Can A Week program and how you can take us to the next level which is ending hunger here in Tucson…

Mr. Rich’s replay knocked my socks off.

“Peter, I LOVE THIS!

“I am under water right now with holiday programming, the radio play, a vacation if I can squeeze it in and other year end projects. So let's put this off until after the first of the year, OK?

“Please contact me then and we will set up a meeting.

“All the best, and CONGRATULATIONS on a fabulous effort!

“Bobby Rich”

Make Like a Computer Geek
Look what just happened in a matter of 24 hours. Like Erin and her approach to fixing a computer virus, I’m stressing a bit too much about moving One Can A Week forward when it appears to move all by itself if I just continue to make a few contacts and make my rounds on Sunday.

To me computers are mansion with scores of rooms. To fix a problem or find a virus, you have to open a lot of door until you spot the culprit. Might as well be calm while you are doing it. Perhaps I should imagine hunger as a huge food bank. It’s going to take time to fill such a place so calm is definitely the way to go…just like on Sunday.

68 Degrees and Mostly Sunshine
That’s what the weatherman calls for this Sunday so block out 2 hours for more Josie Zapata neighborhood fun at the Miles School playground. Last month parents and kids vigorously hacked up and sawed a bunch of pumpkins. This Sunday we will be thinking more about “goodwill toward all” so Josie’s plan is for everyone to be very busy with sparkles, pine cones and Elmer’s glue. Come alone, come with a whole crew, but please do join your Miles neighbors and friends as we all get into the holiday spirit.

Food and Cash Neck and Neck
This Sunday’s collection was a first. We picked up 188 lbs. of food (plus 2 lbs. of pet food and toddler wipes) which is a very strong weekly donation and exactly $188 in cash and checks. When one factors in the Community Food Bank’s 9 for 1 buying power, the $188 will purchase more than $1,600 in additional food. With such wonderful results each week, I can tell you I’m having fun performing my community service… and I know you are too.

See you Sunday.


Monday, November 23, 2009

46th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

On the National Front
HuffingtonPost.com, according to Alexa, the web information company, is ranked 234th in worldwide popularity. So you can imagine, lots of people are reading our article in their Impact section. Just today I heard from Sue in Hightstown, NJ who wrote: “I came across the information about your wonderful initiative, One Can a Week, on Huffington Post this week. I had been looking for some charitable work that was a little more important that sorting clothes at the local thrift store (although I like that, too) and think your idea is a winner. You may remember Hightstown from your years in New Jersey since we're less than 15 minutes from Merrill Lynch. While things are not really bad in central NJ, a food kitchen has started here and it's been too busy.

“I'm just starting to work on my OCAW (One Can A Week) plan and plan to start knocking on neighbors doors the week after Thanksgiving. I'll be printing out your 'starter kit' (thanks for that!) and will keep you posted.”

It’s nice to see we are getting some responses from some very thoughtful people who really get what we are trying to accomplish. Too bad we can’t be on the Huffington Post website every week.

Getting Personal Just Like One Can A Week
Nicola Goren, the Acting CEO for the Corporation for National and Community Service just sent out a memo announcing a new program that is designed to encourage neighbors all over the country to think about feeding their hungry neighbors. Sandy Scott at the CNS who has helped introduce me to writers at The New York Times and USA Today sent me an email saying he thought the new program “fits will with” what we are doing here in the Miles neighborhood.

Here’s Ms. Goren’s memo: “As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, let us also pause and acknowledge that many of our neighbors are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.

“A recent hunger report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that 17 million households, or 14.6% of all households in America, were food insecure in 2008 and had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year. In the midst of our great national abundance, this statistic is incredibly sobering.

“Of course, the Corporation and our grantees already support and participate in numerous anti-hunger programs, from meal preparation and delivery to nutrition education and gardening, in communities across the country.

“But this year, in these particularly tough economic times, the Corporation will also be launching a new United We Serve initiative, Feed A Neighbor, in collaboration with the White House and USDA. Our purpose is to raise public awareness of hunger issues and ask Americans to help ensure that their neighbors have access to nutritional food this winter and throughout the year.

“We will announce Feed A Neighbor early next week in a press conference call with Secretary Vilsack and direct people to Serve.gov to search for local volunteer opportunities that address hunger issues and an anti-hunger volunteer toolkit.

“My challenge to you is simple and straightforward: 1) find an opportunity yourself to serve this holiday season, and 2) spread the word about Feed A Neighbor.

“We will also be asking anti-hunger organizations to post their volunteer opportunities through one of the many aggregators that feed listings to All for Good, the national database linked to Serve.gov.

“Thank you for your help as we continue to work together to tackle this problem.”

No, thank you!

Supermarket Savvy
Rick Stertz is a man of his word. Last week he said he’d contact the Rincon Market and on Saturday he wrote in his email to me, “I spoke with Ron (Abbott) (the owner of Rincon Market) and he was quite receptive to the idea of "Buy A Can/Drop a Can" Food Bank Campaign. (That’s the food industry’s take on One Can A Week.) He would like to see a proposal of ideas and then meet with you.”

In my letter to Mr. Abbott which I will drop off tomorrow I explained that One Can A Week—at its core—is a very appealing capitalistic idea. The supermarket suggests that customers should donate at least one can/non perishable item every time they shop. There is a large donation bin near the front of the store and throughout the store are special items, some times sale items, promoting food donations. As the customers check out there should also be a display near the cashier which he or she can mention.

Supermarkets are always asked to donate food but now with “Buy A Can/Drop A Can” they can donate even more food, make a little money, sell more products, get better volume wholesale pricing and pass those savings onto their customers. Now that’s the capitalism I love.

Thoughtful Thanksgiving
Liz Altamirano on Miles Street imagined 3 families sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and bought them each stuffing, gravy helper and cranberry sauce. Others like Mike and Tamara
on 12th Street had their own food drives in their offices and collected bags and bags of food. Even Mike’s mother donated a $100 check. All of this wonderful holiday kindness throughout our neighborhood filled two large shopping carts. For the week before Thanksgiving we collected 249 lbs. of food and $142.00.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday and see you Sunday.


Monday, November 16, 2009

45th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The Economy is Recovering but There Are Even More Hungry Children
In the recession of the early ‘90s I had to give away what was left of my little graphic arts company in Princeton, NJ and hit the streets. After many desperate months I landed a freelance proofreader job in the Merrill Lynch corporate art department. That turned into a fulltime, middle management Design Directors job. Saved.

The opulence of the Merrill Lynch Princeton corporate headquarters was something to behold. In essence, it was a 30-story building on its side. It took 15 minutes to walk from the Creative Department on one end to the cafeteria on the other end. Completely glass walled on one side and carpeted the full length of the quarter mile I was constantly impressed with the artwork, live plants and shiny gold stuff everywhere. One day a year of so into my tenure at Merrill I stopped by my manager’s office and told her that on my way back from lunch I had an attack of gratitude and wanted to thank her for my job.

I had another attack of gratitude today when I opened my email and read The Washington Post report on more Americans going hungry. The story is terrible news but we are doing something about the situation and have been at it for more than 11 months now. What I’m grateful for is my caring neighbors who decided to help me feed people in need. Just wanted to let you know.

Other Irons in the Fire
Rick Stertz, the gentleman who invited One Can A Week to the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association meeting a couple of weeks ago, is contacting the management at the Rincon Market to set up a meeting for me. Our hope is they will initiate One Can A Week for their customers. Will keep you posted.

Last Friday I dropped off The New York Times article and other One Can A Week materials at KIIM Radio. I will be talking to Amber Crowe, Director of Promotions, maybe early next week. She is returning from vacation Tuesday so she needs time to jump back into the game. This may be a good match because they run an annual diaper drive around Christmas and my thinking is if they get involved with One Can A Week, they can collect diapers throughout the year and help more needy babies.

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend I will meet with Brian Simpson, Director of Communications at the Association of Arizona Food Banks to talk about…well, as Brian wrote in his email “how we may be able to help you spread the message, as well as some of the struggles you run into.” New approaches, new information, that’s going to be a fun meeting.

More on Villa Hermosa
Jack Steindler stopped me on his way out of the Old Pueblo Rotary Club meeting today and showed me the first Villa Hermosa Senior Residence food collection quarterly report. I could tell he was kind of proud of the results. Also he mentioned that Shannon Iggi, the Activities Coordinator, is doing a great job running the program week after week and that he’s happy so many of his resident friends are participating.

Making a Difference…Twice
Early Sunday morning Barbara Trujillo on Miles called to say PJ, her 12-year-old son had collected more food from the roller derby fans Saturday night and he’d have it ready when I stopped by. I figured there would be 5 or 6 hefty shopping bags but as soon as I drove up to the house, I remembered how much the fans liked PJ and his commitment to helping the hungry. All the food he collected completely filled up the Cabriolet and amounted to 189.5 lbs. When added to PJ’s first roller derby donation, he has collected a whopping 533.5 lbs. That’s enough food to feed 136 folks three meals in one day. This is a big deal for a 12-year-old kid. Wonder what he’s going to accomplish when he older…say when he’s 13?

A Very Good Weekend, Indeed
With the help of PJ Trujillo we collected 342 lbs. of food, 8 lbs. of produce and 1.5 lbs of pet food for a total of 351.5 lbs. We also donated $6 in cash. This is our second best week ever. The first was the other PJ food jackpot he orchestrated in June at this mother’s championship roller derby event. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Let’s see if we can donate another two carts of food this Sunday…just because…and give PJ our thanks and a well deserved rest.

See you Sunday


Monday, November 9, 2009

44th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Most newspaper photographers I have met are rugged guys in safari jackets. Their many pockets are stuffed with pens, notebooks, flash attachments and half eaten sandwiches. So when Jill Torrance, The New York Time freelance photographer called me on Thursday to set up a time to meet for Sunday’s collections the only thing I could imagine was the safari jacket…maybe a pink one.

As Jill climbed out of her SUV in front of my house on Sunday I realized a safari was the right analogy but instead of a hunter, I was greeted by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle in jeans. Wow, remembering to smile was not going to be a problem today.

The second house we stopped at did not have a can in the usual place so I knocked on the door. When the door opened Andrew said, “Hey, you caught me in my boxers but I’ll get the can.” A few seconds later the screen door opened and there stood Andrew. At first I though the bright yellow boxers had a huge image of Tweety Bird printed on them or at least that is what I saw through my squinted eyes. I introduced Jill and she clicked away capturing our can and Thank You note exchange. As I turned to leave looking down at the can in my shopping bag, I inadvertently saw those boxers again. It wasn’t Tweety Bird, it was Homer Simpson. How appropriate!

On the way back to the sidewalk, Jill said, “I got the photo I wanted and was able to crop out the boxers.” To do that Jill has to be some kind of great photographer because those boxers were bigger than life.

More Neighborly Conversations
Twice I was asked by neighbors if I go to the Miles Neighborhood monthly meetings. The question was obviously motivated by the delivery of the meeting notices just three days earlier. Yes, as often as I can, I said because the meetings are well run and things get done. For instance they needed a small donation for street signs. A few months later the handsome Miles Neighborhood signs were up on Broadway and Kino telling everyone where they are and where we are for that matter.

Folks asking about our neighborhood activities is such a great Oman because a community only grows when neighbors decide to participate. It doesn’t work any other way.

Returning the Favor
When Jill and I drove up to Brandon’s house on Miles, she was taking to Emily, her new neighbor from across the street. Her three-year-old daughter dressed in her Princess Halloween costume was drawing at the table on their porch. Jill took a few photos and Brandon, charming and effervescent as always, talked to us about why she looks forward to donating to One Can A Week. “It wasn’t too long ago that my daughter and I were on food stamps. I really needed the help. But now I can afford to give back. It makes me feel good to now help others like I was helped.”

We left the Cabriolet parked in the driveway and followed Emily to here home to pick up her donation. Jill took a couple of photos of Emily hands dropping the food into my black shopping bag and we headed back to the car. By this time Brandon was sitting in her daughter’s seat at the table and her daughter had moved to the chair facing us in the driveway. Through the windshield I could see Brandon pointing to her daughter.

“See thinks she is a real Princess.”

We laughed and I replied, “Yes, but she is the understudy.”

A huge smile exploded across Brandon’s face and she nodded approvingly then gave us the thumbs up sign. We laughed again and drove out of the driveway.

Taking Responsibility
Today, just before I drove our food collection to the Community Food Bank I took my Westie pups for a spin around the block. Josie Zapata and I met on the corner of Miles and Highland. She told me she just turned a lost boy over to the teachers at the Miles School. I asked her how she got involved and she said she first saw the lone boy near the arroyo and thought it unusual that he was not in school. She saw him cross the street by himself and thought that unusual, too, because of his young age. Josie followed him down to the Miles School where the boy climbed the fence to play with the other kids in the playground.

Josie alerted a teacher and she took the boy in tow. I could see them walking toward the cafeteria door. “Where’s the mother?” Josie asked as she looked up 13th Street. “Bet she’s out looking for him. Maybe that’s her now way up the street.”

I continued walking Adam and Molly and Josie intercepted the mother who than started to run haltingly toward the school. She stopped to ask directions and another teacher gestured to the front of the school building. As I walked back up Highland Street a burley man in an SUV with a Mexico license plate drove slowly down the street toward the Miles School. I could see stress in his eyes and pain on his face. “Have you seen a little boy?” he said hoping I would have an answer to his dreadful question. I told him to park his car in the parking lot in the next block and go to the office in the front of the building. His wife and son are there.

I had lots to think about on the rest of our walk. Mostly I thought about how responsible Josie was and how rare, unfortunately, it is for people to see danger and act on it. Why is it we experience terrible things like Fort Hood and then learn afterwards that people saw danger or trouble and they did nothing?

We need more Josie Zapatas. No, actually, we all need to follow Josie’s example and not shun responsibility when it shines its light on us.

What the Heck is VEET? – Howard at the Community Food Bank and I, together have lived on this planet well over 100 years and neither of us had any idea what VEET was. We deserve some credit; however, because we saw the word ‘wax’ and weren’t fooled into thinking it was something to eat. We finally decided it should be called a waxing kit and listed under the non food items on the receipt. The total collection this week was 158 lbs. of food, 2 lbs. of non food items and $13.00 in cash.

See you next Sunday.


PS. The New York Times article is scheduled to be published on Thursday, November 12th. I will send everyone a link when it becomes available.

Monday, November 2, 2009

43rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Sam Hughes Neighborhood to Begin One Can A Week Program
Rick Stertz, the chairman of the Sam Hughes Community Action Committee opened the Wednesday, October 28th Sam Hughes Quality of Life Survey presentation meeting with little fanfare. He mentioned that Capt. David Neri, Midtown Division Commander of the Tucson Police Department would discuss crime statistics and crime reduction solutions. He would then be followed by Gabriel Head and Tania Capin the people who conducted the Quality of Life Survey. None of his words portend the dramatic effect the information divulged by these three speakers would have on the 30 or so Sam Hughes neighbors that night.

By his studied manner it was apparent Capt. Neri had spoken to hundreds of professional groups in his 35 years as a police officer. His first slide was a simple graph but it showed the problem in a nutshell. The crime rate in the 1.1 square mile Sam Hughes Neighborhood at the end of 2008 was at 35% and moved up to 38% in at the end of 2009. However, July – August saw a downward trend. Burglary, auto theft, and narcotics made the list, but larceny accounted for most of the police reports. Larceny, as Capt. Neri explained involves computers and iPods taken from unlocked cars, bicycles from porches and the like.
I thought I heard a pin drop. The Sam Hughes Neighborhood is one of the most prestigious and elegant neighborhoods in Tucson. How could crime get to be such a problem there? It turns out that community involvement is at a low ebb in Sam Hughes as with many neighborhoods in Tucson. The solutions Capt. Neri offered included a Neighborhood Watch Group and our One Can A Week program. Neighbors have to begin to interact with each other on their blocks on a regular basis, he suggested. Criminals know that there is a higher risk of being apprehended when a neighborhood is engaged so they move elsewhere.

In every meeting at our Miles Neighborhood Association, Officer Kevin Zinn provides a police report and there is very little activity, mostly some larceny around the Circle K. Josie Zapata has a morning patrol that spray paints the graffiti on the arroyo bridge and light poles and there may be a stolen car now and again. Sam Hughes is at least 10 times bigger than we are but size is not a relevant factor here.

How the Quality of Life Survey Came to Be
Next on the program were Gabriela Head and Tania Capin. Gabriela explained that she and a group of friends met at the Rincon Market to talk about crime in the
Sam Hughes Neighborhood and out of those discussions came a plan to survey more Sam Hughes neighbors to see if they too, were concerned about quality of life issues in the neighborhood. Gabriela said she brought her friend and associate Tania into the project who helped create and manage a survey involving 40 volunteers. And yes, most neighbors surveyed had issues with the crime rate and the quality of life in the neighborhood.

Enter One Can A Week
Shortly after the survey was conducted and prior to a final analysis of the collected data, I made a presentation to the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association about One Can A Week. The president of the association, John O’Dowd suggested I met Gabriela Head and get her input. We had coffee one afternoon and discovered that our community service programs needed each other. Even in the early analytical stages of her survey, Gabriela and Tania knew they had to find a neighborhood activity to foster community involvement. About the same time I discovered that in order to get a neighborhood like Sam Hughes involved in collecting food for the Community Food Bank, I had to find a hook, a device that affected the neighborhood in a positive way. Amazingly, crime reduction was the hook. Who knew! Well, Gabriela knew the moment I explained the concept of One Can A Week to her.

Lines at Our Little Table
The October 28th meeting was in the works for months and Gabriela wanted to be sure One Can A Week would be represented. To help me I asked Barbara Farragut my 12th Street neighbor and friend and Lisa Hepner a friend who collects One Can A Week from her Catalina Vista neighborhood. Good thing I did because each of us had several Sam Hughes neighbors to talk to right after the meeting broke up. Lisa ended up with the most prospects because she threw in her Dining For Women organization which, as their web site describes, “is a dinner giving circle. We "dine in" together once a month, each bringing a dish to share, and our "dining out" dollars are sent to international programs empowering women.” http://www.diningforwomen.org/ Lisa’s strategy is to encourage both One Can A Week and Dining For Women in the Sam Hughes Neighborhood. That works for me.

Taking Care of the Troops
Seventeen-year-old Colin Reed and his mother Carol in Wake Forest, North Carolina collect One Can A Week from their 50 or so neighbors—stated incorrectly in the article as is my status—

but instead of donating the food to the communityfood bank, Colin drops off his donation at the local VFW. To quote the Wake Weekly article his mother sent to me, “The military is something I have a strong affinity toward,” (Colin) Reed said. “I believe a veteran who has served our country and is without food is wrong. These people deserve help more than anyone.” Now there’s a young man who not only gets it, but he is doing something to make things right. It’s nice to see one of our future leaders already leading.

A Call from The New York Times
Stephanie Strom covers philanthropy for The Times and usually writes about very large and very wealthy organizations. Unfortunately, the economy has slowed or nearly stopped the giving activities of most major donors. But she had as idea. Stephanie wants to write an article on giving small but on a consistent basis. This is what we do in the Miles Neighborhood. So she is including our story in her November 12th article. I thanked her very much for all of us.

Just Enough Halloween Candy
To tell you the truth, I expected to pick more Halloween candy Sunday because I figured it was a great way to get the temptation out of the house. I got a bag or two and that was it. Guess everyone was thinking that folks in need should be provided more nutritious fare than something for the sweet tooth. There was lots of tuna fish, beans, peanut butter and apple sauce. You were right and I was wrong. But in my defense, I think I was influenced by the Twizzlers Ed and Liz Altamirano gave me to munch on when I picked up their donation. We collected 168 lbs. of food, 2 lbs. of bread and $9.00 in cash.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, October 26, 2009

42nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The Neighborhood Gets Even More Neighborly
Josie Zapata and her small dedicated crew did a wonderful job putting the Family Fun Night together this past Sunday at the Miles School. There were families in attendance from all corners of the neighborhood. And it was especially pleasing to see folks from the Chico Arroyo Apartments join in the fun.

The next Family Fun Night will be held on December 8th. Not sure what the theme is but who cares, Josie’s parties are always fun. Please mark you calendars but don’t worry, we will send you a reminder or three.

Nothing Left to Do but Enjoy
Josie Zapata (right) spent a month planning for the Family Fun Night on Sunday at the Miles School playground and then sat down to let the late afternoon event unfold. There were plenty of pumpkins and pumpkin-carving enthusiasts to make this neighborhood get together a great success.

Kids Carve Away
Josie said she confiscated the three sharpest knives from the
stack of pumpkin carving knives but no one seemed to notice the dull blades as they jumped right into the task at hand. Even scraping out the messy insides and seeds was more fun than a chore.

Parents Carve Away, Too
Kids big enough to carve their own pumpkin got to go ahead on their own. Smaller kids stood back as their parents quickly got immersed in designing scary pumpkin faces. There was lots of conversation on drying of the pumpkin seeds and the baking of pumpkin pies but the little guys kept their focus and pushed their folks to hurry up and finish the job.

Holiday Art
No pumpkin artist at the Family Fun Night was ever completely satisfied with his
or her creation. In fact, as soon as a completed Jack-O’- Lantern was put on display the artist quickly grabbed another pumpkin and started leafing through the design catalog for inspiration. In no time at all the lid was popped off of the Sharpie and the pumpkin, too.

Sam Hughes Neighborhood “Quality of Life” Action Plan Meeting
One Can A Week has been invited to the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association meeting on Wednesday, October 28th at 6 pm. It will be held in the Hardesty Midtown Conference Room located at 1100 S. Alvernon Way which is near the corner of 22nd Street.
Barbara Farragut and I will have a One Can A Week display table so we can explain our “neighborhood-uniting food donation program” to our Sam Hughes neighbors.

This meeting is the culmination of a summer-long study that focused on crime in their upscale neighborhood and ways to implement a positive change. One Can A Week is going to be presented as one approach to building community involvement. If any of you would like to attend to help Barbara and me tell our Miles Neighborhood story, just give me a call and I can make arrangements.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if our whole neighborhood showed up? We wouldn’t have to say a word. The Tucson Police Department would say it all for us. “See that’s how you diminish crime in a neighborhood. Everybody looks out for each other.”

Monster Shopping Cart
Look at the size of that thing. Empty the cart weighs 66 lbs. But we still filled it to the brim with potatoes, individually wrapped sweet buns and toiletries for a grand total of 196 lbs. We also donated $16.00 in cash. Generally people hand us their cash donations but this week there were a couple of dollars in a couple of the plastic bags left on the porch. Now I check every bag just to see if there is an added surprise. Thanks for making this job even more fun.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, October 19, 2009

41st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Another Week Without Bobby
Although Bobby could have made the rounds Sunday, he still had a cough when I went to pick him up at 11:30. He stood back about 5 feet from the car and said he didn’t want to risk infecting me. Really considerate kid!

About 10 minutes later I saw Bobby walking with three of his buddies toward the park. The first thought that raced through my mind was unkind to say the least, but then I heard a couple of them along with Bobby coughing now and again as they walked. I went back to my “good kid” assessment and drove to my next stop.

Together again
Barbara Farragut, a long time Mile resident, remembers when the neighborhood held an annual block party on 12th Street. What she can’t remember is when they stopped or why. She thinks somewhere between when she moved to California years ago and when she came back to take care of her ailing father. "Those block parties were fun and really something," she said.

The block parties came up in our conversation about Josie Zapata’s Family Fun Night scheduled for this coming Sunday, the 25th. Barbara thought it really nice that community get togethers were starting up again.

As I waved goodbye to Barbara and headed toward Miles I thought about why community events die or any social event, for that matter. An hour and a half later when I finished my rounds and left Manlove Street for home a thought rolled into my mind. These events are really not traditions, they are projects managed by people. So I'm thinking, when a neighborhood like Miles finds an event manager like Josie it is wise to support her efforts.

Above is the Invitation Flyer I put together announcing the Mile Neighborhood Family Fun Night.

Next Sunday as another friendly reminder, Barbara, Kym, Lenny and I will hand out these flyers or attach them to your door. Then at 4 pm, with a pumpkin tucked neatly under your arm and family in tow, just head on over to the school playground. You can also bring other goodies if you like and the little ones in their Halloween costumes. They’ll love that because they get to wear their outfit twice.

The last neighborhood get together Josie put on was a very pleasant success. I’m not much of a partygoer but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Keeping in Shape with One Can A Week
The folks in the Villa Hermosa Activities Office came up with a unique way for the residents to increase their donations to the Community Food Bank and keep healthy and fit at the same time. They told the residents that the staff will match their can donation if 10 residents each walk 40 laps around the Villa Hermosa building by Thursday, October 22nd. Today Jack Steindler, an Old Pueblo Rotary Club member and resident said that they collected 40 cans which is double what they normally do each week. “People gave more,” Jack said, “because they wanted to take advantage of the staffs’ terrific offer. And I’m proud that everyone at Villa Hermosa is getting involved with One Can A Week. The staff created this idea, you know.” Jack rolled his eyes and sighed, “Now we have to go exercise to earn those cans. I know this is good for us, but…”

Just Like a Family Shopping List
This week we donated tuna, cereal, canned beans, 100 watt bulbs (near the cart’s handle), dish washing detergent and canned dog food. All of the items amounted to 174 lbs. in addition to a $25 check and $8 in cash.

If you have something lying around the house that you think someone could use to make his or her life a little easier, put it on the porch. As a rule of thumb, if the non food item can be found in a supermarket, there’s a good chance the Community Food Bank can put it to good use.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, October 12, 2009

40th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The birds were singing their little beaks off this Sunday and the air was warming up instead of cooling down. It felt like a beautiful spring day rather than the second week of fall. People I met along my route were talking more about up coming plans; not packing it in for the winter. PJ Trujillo, remember him, he’s the young man on Miles who set up the food drive at his mother’s championship Roller Derby event a few months back. When he opened his door and handed me his cans of food, he said, “Listen, I’ve got to talk to you.”

I’ve heard those particular words before and they always meant something serious was about to happen. For me it invariably was the setup for loosing a girlfriend or worse yet, my job. So PJ had my attention.

PJ quietly said he, along with the help of a classmate, wants to set up One Can A Week or rather One Can A Month at his Miles school. He wondered if I would come to speak to his class and guidance counselor who would coordinate the program. I said sure, any time and gave him my business card.

That was a relief. I didn’t loose anything even though those fateful words were spoken. And when PJ gets his program operational—which I know he will based on his past success—I’m going to have to learn to stop flinching every time someone starts a sentence with “Listen.”

So Much More Than…
Beth Haggerty, a dear friend of mine, lives on one of those wide, winding streets in the Bel Air Ranch Estates way out on Tanque Verde Road. A life-size black stallion mounted on a 6” high pedestal marks the entrance of the estates. A few months after I started One Can A Week, Beth introduced the food donation program to her neighbors. Her mother and dad and her husband Terry also help with the food collection.

For the past few weeks Beth and Terry were in Alaska presenting a Mental Skills Coaching program to several corporations. When she returned she spent a little time catching up with her neighbors and was moved to send me the following email.

“I am beginning to realize just this past week,” Beth wrote, “how the point of the One Can a Week Program is so much larger than just helping to feed the hungry (although that in itself is important).

“It has taken me from knowing little about my neighbors to beginning to know about their lives, their kids, their animals, challenging events, kids going to college, camping trips, home projects - and realizing they care as I do about connecting and giving.

“In our neighborhood, we are now discussing how we can get together more - do a get together every couple of months.

“They did a welcome party for a new neighbor (we were out of town and missed it) and excitedly discussed One Can of Week, so new families are joining!

“I just feel more at home now and that includes my neighborhood.

“Thanks Peter,

“Love, Beth.”

I don’t know about you but “I just feel more at home now and that includes my neighborhood.” knocks me out. We are making a difference with One Can A Week simply by helping our neighbors help.

A Matter of Perspective
Most every week I get a note in the plastic bag that hangs on the fence or door knob with a neighbor’s food donation. Sometimes it’s a greeting card or just a piece of paper with the words, “Keep up the good work.” This week I got such a card but I also had at least three people say those same words to me personally.

I assure them I won’t give up and they can count on me. But they’re the ones doing the good work by having a food donation ready for me to take to the Community Food Bank. I’m kind of like a postman but I work on Sundays. The truth is, I hope all of my neighbors “keep up the good work.” If they don’t, I’m just flapping in the breeze.

Harbinger of Turkey Day
Much of the food collected this weekend was normal, tasty fare such as tuna, string beans and soup. However, someone is thinking ahead and donated a sack of sweet potatoes. I first called them yams but after a little research I called them by their rightful name…sweet potatoes. I will never make that mistake again. Here’s a link to “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes.” You’ll like it even if “who cares” is your favorite expression. http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sweetpotato.htmlysteries/sweetpotato.html

We gathered 166 lbs. of food which included 2 lbs. of non food items (canned dog food) and $10 in cash.

See you next Sunday.