Monday, June 29, 2009

25th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

You Are Going To Be Amazed
The second quarter totals are in and we donated 113% more food to the Community Food Bank than we did in our first quarter. That means we dropped off 3,000 lbs. of food in the last three months compared to 1,411 lbs. in January, February and March. And for those into numerology, out total for the two quarters was 4,411 lbs. Not sure if the one in front of the comma turning into a 4 means anything other than we did collect exactly 3,000 lbs. in the quarter.

Here is a chart with all of the donations spelled out. Click image to enlarge.

There Are People Behind Those Lb. Statistics
For a couple of weeks now I have been trying to think of a way to show my neighbors how donating just one can a week really has a significant effect on the lives of hard working people in need. When I first decided to start our One Can A Week program I looked at the current Community Food Bank annual report but nothing stuck out except for the huge number of folks they serve. Last week I looked again and saw a connection I had missed earlier. It’s another chart but you will be very surprised and very impressed as I was.

How Many People Can 4,411 lbs. of Food Feed?
The chart below is based on the information contained in the printed Community Food Bank Annual Report – July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008. The Daily Meals (ingredients like our One Can A Week, not prepared food) and Annual Food Distribution figures are rounded estimates published in the report.

The annual meals, weight per individual meals and number of people served are my calculations based on those rounded estimates of Daily Meals and the Annual Food Distribution figures. Click image to enlarge.

The Miles Neighborhood Donates Enough Food to Feed 1,131 Folks Three Meals in One Day
Of course, 1.3 lbs. may sound like a lot of food per meal but every time I get takeout at my favorite Chinese restaurant I can put 1.5 lbs to 1.64 lbs. in one of those rectangular, 3-compartment Styrofoam containers and easily close the lid. Of course, every meal should not be 1.3 lbs. but this is a rough estimate to try to show how we are actually helping real people in real need with our One Can A Week food donation program.

Just think about it, your can of peas along with your neighbor’s can of tuna could feed one person one meal. So every can counts, just like your vote. And if enough of your neighbors join you in your community service, each of you will change the world.

I am very proud of my neighbors and I hope you are proud of yourselves because you deserve the praise.

Other Important News
Commemorative Basket – This is the 140 lbs. of food I delivered Monday to the Community Food Bank but there is something very special about it. This donation marks the end of our second quarter and the beginning of thinking about the folks we are helping. It’s not just One Can A Week, it is one can that is an integral part of one person’s meal.

Sam Hughes Neighborhood
On Wednesday of last week I met with Gabriela Head who has lived in the Sam Hughes Neighborhood for 10 years and managed administering the Quality of Life survey I told you about in the last Update. The Sam Hughes Neighborhood board recommended I contact her. She had over 30 volunteers who went door-to-door gathering the data. Gabriela is going to talk to her team and see how we can initiate One Can A Week in the Sam Hughes Neighborhood.

Return to Safeway
After I left the meeting with Gabriela I went to Safeway to do some shopping and ran into the assistant manager, Dan, who helped me establish my Saturday Safeway collections. He said that in two weeks I can go back for a few weeks. Then Safeway will run another charity drive for three weeks. After that there will be nothing until next summer. Great! This means I can have a table at Safeway for a very long time and really establish One Can A Week.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, June 22, 2009

24th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Great Leads from the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Folks
On Tuesday evening I made my One Can A Week presentation to the board and interested neighbors at the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association. At the end of my talk when I asked if they could suggest people who might want to initiate One Can A Week in their neighborhood, they were quick to give me some direction.

One person they were really high on was Gabriela Head who recently organized and managed a Quality of Life Survey for the neighborhood which involved lots of volunteers and data collection. The good news is I am going to meet with Gabriela on Wednesday to discuss ways we could work together.

KVOA Channel 4 News on Sunday and Monday
Friday afternoon I got a call from a news producer at KVOA who said a videographer would call me to schedule a time Sunday to shoot my Miles Neighborhood food collection. So the rest of the day Friday and all day Saturday I hoped that nothing would explode or fall down because my shoot would be cancelled for sure.

About 9:30 Sunday Robert Dingwall the KVOA videographer called
and we decided to meet at 11:30 in front of my home. As he set up his camera…a terrific, high end Fuji I might add…we chatted about community service and why I started One Can A Week. Robert admitted that he liked doing community stories more than accidents and fires. “They don’t have the drama,” he said, “but they are very important.”

Every Sunday Edward and Liz Altamirano (pictured on the right above) greet me at their front door along with their spunky pup Kahlua. This Sunday was different. Edward was out and when Liz, spotting Robert Dingwall, the videographer from KVOA Channel 4 News, she started out on the timid side but if you saw the One Can A Week story on Sunday at 5:30 and Monday at 5:00 you can tell Liz got it together pretty fast. She and Lopita who lives on the corner of Miles and Highland were both very articulate in their on camera debut. And neither needed a teleprompter.

Robert shot everything. The can pickup, the Thank You note placement, getting in the Cabriolet, getting out of the Cabriolet, driving down the street and lots of walking up to the houses. When he interviewed Lopita, Liz and me, that big lens shield was no more than 10 inches from our faces. I immediately thought of the Seinfeld episode on “close talkers” because we did the same thing Elaine and George did. We kept our feet firmly planted but we bent back a bit.

The images Robert made, which were incredibly clear, and the angles he used made us look great. I’m pretty sure we could get used to the closeness of the lens—that is, if KVOA wanted to do another story on One Can A Week down the road—especially since it’s just a lens and there is no hot, pungent breath blowing in our faces like on Seinfeld.

The Food Keeps Flowing
Even though it is summer vacation time and Father’s Day was celebrated on Sunday, we still collected a terrific amount of food. We had 124 lbs. of food and 34 lbs. of some very plump grapefruits. We already collected twice as much food this quarter as we did last quarter and we still have a week to go.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, June 15, 2009

23rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

PJ’s Roller Derby Idea Scores Big
Some weeks ago Barbara Trujillo on Miles Street called to tell me her eleven-year-old son PJ (Parker James) had been studying the One Can A Week food donation program for the Community Food Bank and he came up with an idea of his own. He suggested that everyone, team members and fans, bring a can of food to the champion Tucson Roller Derby bout that was going to be held June 13th. His mom—Barbicide, a member of the defending Roller Derby championship team VICE Squad—loved the idea and by the final results so did everyone else.

PJ, Barbara and the whole gang collected 344 lbs of food plus $1.00 from a fan who just forgot. (To see a great Arizona Daily Star article by Ernesto Portillo, Jr. and a charming color photo of Mom and PJ, follow this link.

Adding in Sunday’s total of 132 lbs. of food and $36 in donations, Miles Neighborhood ended up with a total contribution of 476 lbs. of food and $37 in donations. The food donation bests our past record of 240 lbs. by 236 lbs. Way to go PJ!

PJ Opens the Door to Food Drive Events
There are two aspects to PJ’s idea: Kids are never too young to get involved in the real world and there are scores of championship events throughout the city every year.

Kids of all ages see hungry kids—some of them their classmates—and they say to themselves, why can’t we just feed them? Food is everywhere. How hard can that be? When they bring up the subject of hunger to their parents and teachers it’s often dismissed as cute or charming and maybe even na├»ve.

In Barbara’s case, she always listens to PJ and his idea was simple, clear and quite doable. The adult thing she had to do was talk to the other adults to make this simple yet important idea happen. With PJ involved every step of the way, Barb talked to the powers to be, got their buy in and made an announcement that PJ wanted everyone to help him with his community service project for the Community Food Bank by bring a can of food to the Championship Bout.

A week or so before the event, PJ stopped me on the street while I was walking my dogs just to make sure I knew what was going on so I could be there to collect the donations. Smart kid just following through.

One young lady at the event placed her stack of cans on the table and said, “I don’t shop at Wal-Mart but I had this gift card and I went to Wal-Mart.” Guess she wanted to get the most for her money. She was smiling and quite pleased with how things turned out.

Making the Community Food Bank Part of the Games
The other aspect of PJ’s idea—playing and doing something serious at the same time—is a great teaching tool for all of the kids involved in competitive activities in the city. The adults in the room should spread PJ’s idea and help kids help the Community Food Bank eliminate hunger here in Tucson. The kids would do it in a second but we are the ones with the driver’s license, the money and the control.

Two-Cart Fill Up
If one night at the Roller Derby championship can generate 344 lbs. of food for the Community Food Bank, imagine how much food could be donated if every championship sporting event in the city adopted PJ’s idea? You can bet it would be much more than lots.

What a Bout
Most of the time during the championship bout between Barbara’s team, the VICE Squad, and the Copper Queens, I was toting food from the ticket desk at the front door to the Once Can A Week table inside the arena. The other reason I wasn’t paying much attention was Barb’s team was behind from the opening buzzer up to 2 minutes left on the clock which accounted for 58 minutes of play. Then things got really exciting. The score was 94 to 94 then suddenly 107 to 98 in favor of the VICE Squad but there was still a chance for the Copper Queens to win. It all came down to the VICE Squad blocking the challengers, not making any penalties and eating up the clock. Barbara’s team held them off while everyone in the arena held their respective breaths. What a thrilling finish and PJ and the Miles Neighborhood got a lot of food to show for it.

Summertime Haul
Vacations appear to be cutting into the amount of food collected on Sundays, but 132 lbs. is not too shabby. We will be able to really see the trends once people start returning to the neighborhood when the temperatures moderate a bit.

Great Beginnings for the Sam Hughes Neighborhood
A Sam Hughes neighbor who attended last month’s association meeting came up to me at the Roller Derby event and told me she introduced One Can A Week to her neighbors on her block. Also, she is involved with the Tucson Community Services Department which provides meeting rooms for free to community organizations. The meeting rooms are always free but she has implements a program where meeting participants can bring donations for the Community Food Bank to their meetings. She now has three large boxes of food which she said she will drop off at Jimmy’s Broadway Garage on Tucson and Broadway this week.

On Tuesday evening I am officially presenting One Can A Week to the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association in the Himmel Library at 7 pm. This should be the start of a lot more food for the Community Food Bank.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, June 8, 2009

22nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The Tortoise Always Wins
On June 16th I am meeting with the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association and I’m thinking about ways to excite and engage them in One Can A Week. I need to find a couple of people who don’t mind a little selfless commitment. Unfortunately, the physical image below is what puts a crimp in the conversation. Of course it’s solitary work, but helping your neighbors help the Community Food Bank is a feeling that is really hard to describe. Also, I like the responsibility and people counting on me. Maybe I could tell them that their arms will get a lot stronger. Or they’ll drink a lot more water. Or it’s only 3 ½ hours of work on Sunday. Or some people in trouble won’t be hungry and afraid. I’ll think of something, after all, I have all of you to point to as a wonderful example of making a difference. (Photo by Neto Portillo)

Safeway Karma
Since most of the food contributions occurred between 1:30 and 3:00 pm I decided to change my start hour from 11:30 am to 1 pm and go to 4. Well, that threw off the whole karma thing.

Lots of people moved in and out of Safeway and the parking lots was very busy but customers only shopped for a few minutes and left with just a couple of bags. By 3 pm I had only a dozen cans or so in the collection box. And surprisingly, no one stopped to just chat. On prior Saturdays I had at least 3 or 4 people strike up a conversation.

On the other side of the entrance, the lemonade stand and the hot dog and tortilla stand were both collecting donations for Prostate Cancer and they were not fairing well either. I could understand why the hot dog and tortilla stand did very little business because don’t hot dogs cause prostate cancer? It was just a thought.

Also the wind blew constantly. So much so I could not put up the umbrella on the Cabriolet. Then about 2:30 pm the store manager, Bill—not Dan, he’s the assistant manager I found out—came over to me and said a bit awkwardly that he wanted me to take a month break. He added that the Prostate Cancer campaign was their major push right now and they wanted to focus on that.

My New York Lesson
Every time I got a no on one of my publishing projects I would call someone right away and get another appointment. I don’t like to dwell on the negative. I guess what helped me arrive at this realization was my dad. Once after I experienced a particularly painful failure he told me if it were easy, anybody could do it.

About 4 years into my authoring career I had a list of 32 book ideas that were all turned down in a very short period of time. Instead of sitting around with that sinking “why me” feeling, I called someone to move things forward. In a few months I placed maybe 15 of the 32 books at other publishers.

So after lunch on Monday I walked into Bashas’ on Kolb and Sunrise and made a presentation to set up One Can A Week next Saturday. Tom, the Floor Supervisor—assistant manager in other supermarkets—said the corporate offices make such decisions and he will get back to me soon. It it’s a no; I know where I’m going next.

Summer Sums
This week we collected 156 lbs. of food including lots of huge cereal boxes. This is down a bit from the previous weeks but we also collected $57. That’s up a bit from the previous weeks.

I have an idea summer vacations are effecting the collections but many of our neighbors are planning ahead and giving us cash donations or boxes of food. No matter, we are doing just fine because our neighbors are thinking Community Food Bank whether they are in town or not.

Tucson Roller Derby Fun
Barbara on Miles who is a member of a Roller Derby team and her son PJ invited me to the Tucson Sports Center at 1065 W. Grant this Saturday, June 13th at 6 pm. They want me to set up my One Can A Week table and collect a whole bunch of food. PJ and his mom made the arrangements weeks ago and told all of the players and fans to bring food donations for the Community Food Bank. I have never seen a Roller Derby live but after Saturday I can’t say that anymore. PJ who is 12 years old is setting up his own One Can A Week food collection boxes in a few downtown Tucson businesses. If you want to join us, just bring a can of food to the Tucson Sports Center, and please, watch out for the flying elbows. (Photo from

See you next Sunday.


Monday, June 1, 2009

21th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The End of Hunger in Tucson
For nearly 6 months now I have been talking about collecting so much food weekly for the Community Food Bank that we ostensively end hunger in our city. Before it was just talk and lots of work ahead, however, after my breakfast meeting with the Kino Rotary Club in South Tucson, talk may turn to reality.

Debbie Haddock who presided over the breakfast meeting and Corina Baca told me about a Tucson Rotary Club strategy where all 20 clubs would join forces to help a single cause. And for everyone at the meeting the Community Food Bank was at the top of his or her favorite charity list. In fact, each of the 10 attendees brought in a can of food for me to add to our weekly donation plus $13.00 in cash.

Projects That Solve Problems
Before I got into the crux of One Can A Week, I told them that in my career I mostly created projects that answered specific questions. Two of the examples I used to explain my M.O. more clearly were “The Misspeller’s Dictionary” published by Quadrangle, The New York Times Book Company and Top Tag Pet ID. “The Misspeller’s Dictionary” contains misspelling so you can look up the word like you think it is spelled…which spell check killed, thank you very much. Top Tag is a universal USB flash drive pet ID tag worn on a dog’s collar that contains all of the pet’s contact and care information.

So it naturally follows that the One Can A Week neighborhood food donation program is designed to achieve an explicit goal unlike most charitable endeavors fostered by prestigious organizations such as the Rotary. This idea of really doing something that solves a problem was intriguing to everyone in the room.

Safeway Saturdays and More
I then told them about my Safeway Saturdays and how it could be expanded to Safeway Saturdays, Sundays and Coupon Wednesdays. All it takes is a corps of energetic volunteers who can spend 3 hours a week standing behind a table with a food donation box and say, “Hi, how are you doing today?” (I never ask for donations…my signage and car do that for me.)

And with just 10 Safeways, 10 Fry’s, 8 Bashas’ and 4 Trader Joe’s, the challenge to mobilize the volunteers needed is small but the rewards are great. Nearly everyone in Tucson visits one of these supermarkets at least once a week. Interestingly enough all of these supermarkets are donating food to the Community Food Bank weekly right now through their back doors. However, I said, a huge, untapped source of food donations for the Community Food Bank is at the front door of Tucson’s major supermarkets.

To drive home the point even more, I mentioned that the manager of the Broadway and Campbell Safeway loves One Can A Week because it is the only charity that pays rent for its weekly spot in front of the store. We encourage additional purchases that their customers would otherwise not have made. Don’t you just love capitalism and helping people in trouble!

Noodles Weigh More Than You Think
About half way through my collection route Sunday I noticed that there were an abundance of noodle, spaghetti and macaroni packages. Since weight is the key gauge at the Community Food Bank I was a bit concerned that this week’s donations would not measure up. At the Monday morning weigh-in I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Miles donations totaled 228 lbs. That’s the second highest amount to date. I love being wrong when it comes to guessing food weights.

Little Safeway Odds and Ends
A gentleman wearing a paper name tag and carrying a drink and a can of beans walked up to our table. He handed me the can and as he walked away said over his shoulder, “Your sign worked, I was just going to buy a drink.”

About every 40 minutes I have to go to the car and rewind the music tape. On one of the trips I noticed a large can of peas in the back seat. Even the Cabriolet is proving to be irresistible to people and their urge to help.

See you next Sunday.