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.


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