Monday, July 27, 2009

29th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

The Sign of Real Change
There is a need in many of us to extend a helping hand to our brothers and our sisters. On the more organized side of society, it is what motivates teachers, doctors, firemen, policemen and not-for-profit staffers. Then there are those—of which I am one—who step to the beat of a different drummer, yet want to help as much as anyone can help another human being. Just this past Sunday I met Lisa Hepner and because of my own unique path in life I could hear the faint beat of her drummer.

Making One Can A Week A Family Affair
For some time now Lisa Hepner has been think about getting involved in community service but wasn’t sure what to do. Then she read Pauline Hechler’s article on One Can A Week in the Arizona Star last Sunday and she knew instantly. “I was so moved by the story,” said Lisa, “that I even cried.” She contacted me through my Facebook page and we met this Sunday at the start of my rounds. Lisa wanted to see the process and show her children, too, because they will help her.

Lisa has 5 children, a husband and is a working mother. What Lisa also has is a fluency in American Sign Language and a huge heart. After we finished part of my rounds in the Miles Neighborhood we headed to McDonald’s for lunch to talk about how she can get started with One Can A Week in her own neighborhood. I thought lunch would be a bit of a challenge what with 4 kids in tow. As we walked across the parking lot, little 4-year-old Meili took my hand and escorted me up to the door. Okay, I thought, I’ll just have to pay for this lunch. When I finally got to the counter, Lisa had the meals ordered for the kids and was in the processing of entering her pin.

Things were not any different during the lunch. The kids were acting just like kids, playing air guitars and imitating singing karaoke with a microphone jammed to their lips but a simple sign from Lisa brought the sound level down and order back to just a little giggling. I remember getting signs from the nuns when I was a kid and they had the same effect on me but I know I never kept on smiling as these kids did. And air guitars and karaoke mics? The image was startling to me. It is really apparent Lisa’s kids will never miss any of the real music in life even if they can’t actually hear the melodies.

It will be a few weeks before Lisa can start One Can A Week in her neighborhood. She’s in real estate and just sold her house so she has to move. She’s not exactly sure where her new Tucson neighborhood will be but as soon as she’s settled, she will begin collecting food for the Community Food Bank. And I know she will be successful because Lisa really knows how to help her brothers and her sisters…just ask her kids.

This photo of Lisa and four of her children, Amira, Meili, Noah and Milan was taken in the McDonald’s parking lot right after lunch. The pained look on Milan’s face has more to do with the quick dash to the restroom after the shutter clicked than he not liking to pose for photographs. Click to enlarge.

What Happens in the Miles Neighborhood doesn’t stay in the Miles Neighborhood
People around the country are beginning to talk to each other about our Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week program and how interesting and effective it is. Last week I told you about Feeding America, the nation’s largest food donation advocate sending emails about One Can A Week to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the government agency tasked with encouraging community service across the country.

On Wednesday I received a call from Sandy Scott, the Director of Media Relations at CNCS. Sandy told me that they produce an annual report on the state of volunteerism in the USA which, among other things, highlights the fact that on average 60% of the volunteers work for established organizations and 31% are entrepreneur volunteers. Since the Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week program falls into the entrepreneur category he asked if I wouldn’t mind talking to a reporter from USA Today about our program. I nearly dropped my cell phone. What a surprise and what an honor.

A couple of hours later Ms. Koch, the reporter from USA Today called and we chatted for about 10 minutes. I realized at the end of our conversation that my enthusiasm ramped up a bit. I know this because Ms. Koch said, “I got to go” … twice. This is a teachable moment for me. Here is the link to the USA Today front page article:

Tomorrow Mr. Scott is scheduled to call again. There is a media conference call he would like me to participate in and speak for about 3 minutes. That’s approximately 360 words—a mere warm up for me but I promise to be considerate.

Tonight Pauline Hechler, Barbara Farragut and I are taping Impact with Rebecca Taylor at the KVOA News 4 studio. This will be fun and others will be talking so I will be forced to be considerate there, too.

The show is scheduled to air Sunday, August 9 at 6:00 am. I will send around the link once it’s up on a website.

Summertime Pattern
We took a little dip in the food collection weight early in the summer but things seem to be leveling off. We collected 154 lbs. this past Sunday which was just 6 lbs. less than last week. When it comes to helping the needy, consistency is a good thing.

Neighbors Being Neighbors
Before Lopita Gaona left for New York City a month ago she asked me to just keep an eye out as I walked my dogs around the neighborhood. I was thrilled she asked me because, as you know, I like to be helpful and watching someone’s home is, well…a trust you just have to appreciate. After a wind storm I straightened up their recycle bin in keeping with the lived in look and fixed the door mat. Little but important stuff.

While in NYC, Lopita called just to chat because she was having an exciting day. President Obama was giving a speech to the NAACP, Paul McCartney was playing on the Sullivan Theater marquee and Mandela was celebrating his birthday. She was in the crowd for all three. At the end of our conversation she asked, “What would you like me to bring back from NYC for you?” I lived in Manhattan for 9 years so the question wasn’t hard. I said a roast beef sandwich on rye from the 59th Street deli.

On Sunday when I picked up Lopita’s donation she didn’t have my sandwich but she did have a New York Yankees hat, that famous President Obama tee shirt and a very artistic Harlem, NY tee shirt. I was really touched that she thought of me while on vacation.

After finishing my rounds, I went home and thought about putting on the Harlem, NY tee shirt Lopita gave me and making myself a roast beef sandwich on rye ... just like in New York City. It was a nice thought.

See you Sunday.


Monday, July 20, 2009

28th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

A Little More Limelight
On Sunday, Pauline Hechler, Vice President of Development at the Community Food Bank, wrote an article entitled “The journey to end hunger starts with a single can” which appeared in the Opinion section of the Arizona Daily Star. (

Her focus was on the Miles Neighborhood, One Can A Week and me. It’s a good read and I’m glad the Miles Neighborhood is getting a little recognition for helping out so many needy folks in the past 6 months.
The Corporation for National and Community Service also put up an article on their website about our Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week food donation program. Forty-eight hours later I received a response from Karen who lives in a little town in Northern Illinois. I sent her all of our collateral material which includes the Thank You and Sorry We Missed You cards. (

She again responded and I was very touched by her story. This is what she wrote: “I am excited to start on a new adventure that allows me
to give back
to the community.
A few years back my husband fell at work and hurt his back. He had surgery and his body has really not been the same since. During our extremely tough time many people in our church community gave things I never expected and I was utilizing the local food pantry. We are now in a much better situation with his acquisition of two seasonal jobs (one for summer, one for winter, it snows a lot here!), and my most recent promotion. The Lord has provided for us and I know it is my time to start giving back.”

I think Karen is going to do very well with One Can A Week because she knows—even better than I—what it is like to really need help. She also knows how important it is for people to step up to provide that help until someone can get back on his or her feet. Yep, Karen is going to be good at helping her community help people in need.

Rotary Club Update
On Wednesday, August 26th, I’ve been invited to make a One Can A Week presentation to The Casas Adobes Rotary Club at La Paloma Country Club. Actually, Pauline’s article made this happen because a friend of hers read her piece on Sunday and emailed her on Monday. I’m really looking forward to this breakfast meeting because The Rotary Club is a powerful force here in Tucson and if all 20 clubs get involved with One Can A Week, food will really begin to pile up in the Community Food Bank warehouse again.

On the other side of town The Rotary Club of South Tucson is finalizing their plans on how they want to participate in the One Can A Week food donation program. Debbie Haddock, the new president of South Tucson, contacted me for a little more information and clarification. This is a good sign and I hope to hear from Debbie in a week or so.

Collection Uptick
The temperature was a bit hotter this past weekend and so were the donations. We collected 160 lbs. of food, 2 lbs. of non food items and $10.00 in cash. This beats last week’s donations by 30 lbs. Vacations or not, the Miles neighbors always seen to be doing their part no matter what the weather.

Howard Needs a Little Good Cheer
The second week I delivered our donation to the Community Food Bank I met Howard Payenson. He’s fast and keeps his head down when working, as this photo shows. Howard has a great demeanor and is very helpful at the weigh-in. Recently he was mugged at his apartment complex and injured. He sustained a couple of broken ribs and an eye injury. He’s okay and on the mend but I think we can speed his recovery process if we send him some get well messages. Please address them to:
Howard Payenson
Community Food Bank
P.O. Box 26727
Tucson, AZ 85726

Thanks, I can’t wait for Howard to get back to work.

See you Sunday.


Monday, July 13, 2009

27th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The world is taking notice of the Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week food donation program. Well, perhaps that’s speaking a bit hyperbolically…it’s more like just big websites here in the USA. But big websites are good!

On Thursday the 7th I got an email that read: “The Corporation for National and Community Service, the owner of, would like to post your story of service.” I replied: “The Miles Neighborhood neighbors, the originators of One Can A Week Neighborhood Food Donation Program would be pleased if you posted our story everywhere.” I think they are thinking everywhere, too, because of the legal paragraph that followed their opening sentence mentioned things like “such as, but not limited to.” That could mean the world, you know. So maybe my opening sentence isn’t hyperbole.

One Can A Week on
I registered our program on so anyone looking for a project dealing with hunger in America can find us on that huge government website. To see the listing just click on the link.

Rebecca Taylor from KVOA News 4 Called
Rebecca wrote and presented that great news story on One Can A Week a few weeks ago. Now she would like to do a more in depth report for Impact, a half hour community service program that airs Sunday mornings at 6 am on KVOA News 4. Our air date is scheduled for August 9th. After the show airs, I will try to purchase a DVD and get permission to place the video on our blog.
Barbara Farragut on 12th Street and Pauline Hechler, Vice President of Development at the Community Food Bank will be joining me in a conversation about hunger in Tucson, the Community Food Banks’ critical role in feeding the needy and our One Can A Week Neighborhood Food Donation Program.

New Arizona Daily Star Sunday Feature
The Star is looking for people to suggest and then write about folks who will someday affect Southern Arizona’s future. Jane See White, the feature editor says, “Perhaps it is a retired person who is pouring his talents into a nonprofit charity. Perhaps it is a scholar or scientist whose work you believe will touch our lives.”

As luck would have it, this Sunday’s article will be written by Pauline Hechler. Her topic covers our One Can A Week program and some background on me.

Pauline has assisted me from the start and her support keeps me always pressing forward. She thinks I may help change Southern Arizona’s future and that is why she is writing the piece. But I can tell you, her encouraging words over the past 6 months have already changed my future.

Hitting Our Summer Stride
The temperature is over 100 degrees every Sunday now and we are tipping the food scales at around 130 lbs. at each Monday weigh-in. This week we collected 132 lbs plus $6.00 in cash. Last week we collected 134 lbs. Averages are good! Also, notice the Ginger Snaps with the purple smiley face. Love it when kids get involved, don’t you?

Safeway Off Again
It turns out that I didn’t get approval to team up with the Community Food Bank and the Humane Society of Tucson this coming Saturday. Because of the slow economy, both charity drives at Safeway, Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer did not generate as many donations as the company had predicted. Consequently, Safeway does not want to support any other program at this time and perhaps not until next year. So I’m thinking about and planning to approach other supermarkets in Tucson for my Saturday food collection program.

Little Cabriolets get heat exhaustion, too
Almost completed my rounds two Sundays ago when I noticed a pool of fluid under the car. Not good. Made it home and Monday discovered the cause. A small cooling system hose popped out of its moorings in a spot very near the bottom of the engine block. Since I am a “top of the engine mechanic” only I am going to have to wait until a ship or two comes in to fix my little friend. Fortunately I have another car that gets the job done but has nowhere near the charm of my 22-year-old, half a million mile Cabriolet.

See you Sunday.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

26th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

We just learned that in the past six months we collected enough food to feed 1,131 people three meals in one day. That piece of news was very exciting and exhilarating. It is also a tough act to follow…at least for another six months until the donation results are tabulated in December.

The truth is I spent Monday morning trying to think of other goals we could achieve but finally admitted that we probably have plateaued for awhile. Boy, was I wrong!

An Email from Washington
About 2 pm my email chimed and I saw a message with the subject line: Feeding America advocate story. I open any email that talks about hunger in America and realized it was from Feeding America. “The nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity" is how they describe themselves on their website. Actually it is a fact, not a description and the Community Food Bank is a member of this important national organization.

My first thought was that this email is another communiqué for Feeding America about some legislation they are supporting and they would like me to get involved by contacting my legislators. I signed up on their website months ago because hunger in America is a key issue for me. This wasn’t the first email I had received from them.

The email was from Brett Weisel, Advocacy Manager at Feeding America. I think I’ll let you read the email just as I did so you can react just as I did.

“I wanted to personally thank you for the story you submitted through Feeding America’s Hunger Action Center. We were all very inspired by your efforts to collect food for people in your community. Everyone that I showed your story to was quite moved.

Recently, the President launched the United We Serve campaign, which is an effort to re-energize America’s sense of service and make volunteerism and community service part of every American’s daily lives. Feeding America has been working with the Administration and the Corporation for National and Community Service (they are the government agency that runs AmeriCorps) on this campaign to highlight hunger and those who are taking it upon themselves to do something about it.

Because your story was so inspiring, the Corporation for National and Community Service is interested in highlighting your story as part of the United We Serve initiative. Your story would be posted on the new blog and will hopefully inspire others to follow in your footsteps. This is a great opportunity to highlight your efforts to bring hunger relief in your community.

I wanted to make sure that you are comfortable having your story highlighted. If you want, we can make sure that it is anonymous.

Thank you for all that you do and please let me know if you have questions. If you would not like your story to be published on the blog, please let me know.

Holy Moly!
I have a more extensive vocabulary than that but that’s all I could think of to say at the time. I know Mr. Weisel wrote to me because I’m the front man on our Miles Neighborhood food donation program and I am the one who submitted our story, but what he was saying is that we as neighbors and a neighborhood are achieving something right now that they, Feeding America and the National and Community Service would like other communities across the country to do; i.e., awaken their commitment to community service.

And I am not just saying that either. I wrote back to tell Mr. Weisel that I will gladly give him permission to use our story in an effort to motivate other neighborhoods. He then replied and said:

“Thank you, Peter. When I forwarded it (the story I submitted to Feeding America) around to folks at Feeding America, everyone was blown away. When I sent it to the Corporation for National and Community Service, there was the same reaction. Let’s keep in touch because I think there are more ways we can highlight your efforts.”

My Story is Our Story
Remember when we first met at your front door, I said that I can’t do my community service if you don’t do your community service first and provide One Can A Week. That’s why this is working so well. This is why it is our story. You can count on me to show up every Sunday, rain or shine, and I know that I can count on you to have your food donation sitting on your porch for me to collect and take to the Community Food Bank on Monday. It is a terrific example of mutual trust just to help people in need. No, it’s a real community doing real community service.

Another Good Beginning
It was the 4th of July holiday weekend this past Sunday. In addition, lots of folks were off enjoying their much deserved summer vacations yet we still collected 134 lbs. of food and $25.00 in cash. What a great way to break into the third quarter.

Back to Safeway
On Saturday, July 18th I will have our One Can A Week table set up at the entrance to the Safeway Supermarket. It may be a bigger event, too. Josh Coldsmith from the Community Food Bank contacted me and said he is looking for a venue for a joint donation drive involving the Community Food Bank and the Humane Society of Tucson. I will speak to Dan the assistant manager tomorrow and if it is not possible there, I will contact other Safeway Supermarkets to set something up for them. By the way, I love pets just as much as I love food…maybe even more.

See you Sunday.