Monday, September 28, 2009

38th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Third Quarter and We Are Way Out in Front
Last week Marisol Bello, a reporter for USA Today called and said she was doing a story on the recent 9/11 community service activities Michelle and President Obama were engaged in to encourage folks to participation in local community service programs. She wanted to know if they had an effect on me. I said they sure did but way back in January.

This startled her a bit but I knew that was the right answer because Sandy Scott of the Corporation of National and Community Service in Washington gave her my name. Sandy knows all about us. For the next 40 minutes I told her our Miles Neighborhood story and that our third quarterly report was due out this week. (She gave me her email address so she is getting this email, too.)

One question Marisol asked that I did not have a ready answer for was, what other neighborhoods have taken up One Can A Week? It took me about 20 minutes of research to compile the list after we hung up. In Tucson there’s Ironwood Ridge and Catalina Vista. The others around the country include Phoenix, Ashley, Tennessee and North Carolina. The next day after I sent the list to Marisol, I got a call from Alaska—and no, it wasn’t Sarah—because they were starting their own One Can A Week neighborhood program.

The reason all of this is happening is right there in our most recent quarterly report. We haven’t missed one single week in the past 9 months and your generosity really shows. We have collected enough food to feed 2,173 folks 3 meals in one day. That would be some huge dining hall wouldn’t it?

Because of the summer vacations, the volume of food donated diminished a bit, but notice the cash and check donations. July 27th was the only week we were penniless. We are really making a difference because we think about and care for the needy every week.

A rather big surprise in this quarterly report is our year-to-date $1,262.38 cash donation. This translates to $11,361.42 in food the Community Food Bank can distribute. In other words, “For every $1 donated,” as stated in the Community Food Bank Annual Report, “the food bank can distribute $9 of food.” (There is a special thanks we have to give to Wes Baker—Borderlands Outlet Furniture on 7th Street—who as one of our Proxy Neighbors donated $500 this past quarter. I know I thanked him in the 32nd Week Update but I just wanted to do it again.)

I’m very proud of my Miles neighbors because we are making a difference together. We are way out in front but I sure hope lots of neighborhoods around the country catch up to us and even pass us. If that happens hunger in America will become a thing of the past.

Food and Helping Mother Earth, Too
Ruben Vejar, a member of the Kino Rotary Club called me Thursday morning and said he had a lot of food to donate. He is also the manager of the RISE Retail Store on 22nd and Park Avenue. I wasn’t familiar with the store name but I knew the location. It was the Pima Computer Recycling Service where I had dropped off a number of outmoded computers, monitors and printers; even a stereo.

When I arrived about 45 minutes later I saw the large sign that read RISE Equipment Recycling Center and a small sign on the front door that stated “Formerly the Pima Computer Recycling Service.” I soon learned that COPE Community Services, Inc., a non-profit here in Tucson that is “dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of individuals in need and our community” has a number of irons in the fire. (Click on the link to learn more about COPE. Years ago I helped folks with brain injuries reenter the work force and many of them were COPE clients. I visited a couple of their offices and was always impressed with the friendly d├ęcor and considerate staff. Interesting how life often circles back.

One of Ruben’s electronic recycling clients also had a huge stock of restaurant No.10 cans and many large bags of black beans that totaled 328 lbs. He accepted the food and then decided to call me because he had heard my One Can A Week presentation a few months ago. We loaded my car or more accurately, stuffed my trunk and then talked a few minutes about business. As with most companies here in Tucson, things were slow. On the one hand, many people are not familiar with the recycling center or the store for that matter where $100.00 can buy a Pentium 4 Dell computer with a licensed XP operating system installed. Making things worse folks are moving very slowly when it comes to replacing worn out computers.

On my way back from the Community Food Bank I realized that Ruben could follow the same model of One Can A Week, but instead of picking up in neighborhoods, he could pick up at businesses. The next day I sent Ruben a letter explaining the idea. Then about two days later I realized that this is something we could also do here in the Miles Neighborhood.

Cans and Computer Sunday
This coming Sunday I will be happy to pick up your food donation and any electronic gizmo you want to recycle … for free. Just put the old printer, monitor, computer or record player on the porch next to your food donation. (TVs require a $15 fee because they are especially toxic inside.) On Monday morning I will take the food to the Community Food Bank and the computer stuff to RISE. If it turns out that there is a whole bunch of recycle equipment for RISE, I’ll make a couple of trips or call RISE to help.

Like the Community Food Bank, COPE is a well managed Tucson non-profit and I don’t know about you, but after listening to months of so called debate on health care, I want to help any non-profit that looks out for needy folks and our beautiful planet.

Some of This and Some of That
If you look real close you can see an onion popping out of its bag on the left in the back of the cart and a tube of toothpaste in front of a green squash. There are some bars of hand soap also. We collected 162 lbs. of food, 5 lbs. of produce, 3 lbs. of non food items and $7.00 in cash. It’s a visual feast for the eyes, so to speak.

See you next Sunday.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

37th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

A New Record
Richard Fimbres our neighbor on Miles—and the Ward 5 Democratic candidate for the open seat in the Southside Council ward—once donated along with his mother a 25 pound bag of black beans. That was something.

Today, Richard set the bar even higher. He, along with LULAC, “the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization in the United States” recently talked to Tyson Foods, Inc and through their efforts, Tyson decided to donate 15 tons of frozen chickens to the Community Food Bank. That works out to more than 24,000 protein rich meals for needy folks. Just amazing Richard and LULAC!

The Tyson truck arrived at the Community Food Bank just before 9 am and was greeted by lots of local dignitaries. Our mayor Bob Walkup was there to say a few words. Bill Carnegie, CEO of the Community Food Bank (in the photo below on the right), also spoke and made all of the introductions. I guess they chose him because he knew everybody there is the loading area of their huge warehouse. Bill even mentioned the Miles neighborhood and One Can A Week program. I took his picture because of that.

Free Meeting Rooms, Almost
Nina Trasoff, Ward 6 council member came over to talk to Lisa Hepner who collects donations in the Catalina Vista neighborhood and me about her success with One Can A Week. If you remember, Nina and her people oversee several free meeting rooms and they suggest that folks who use the facilities might make a food donation as a token of their appreciation. The idea has caught on and in the past few months she has collected over 800 pounds of food for the Community Food Bank. At the end of our conversation Lisa and Nina exchanged business cards. I was left out because I’m Ward 5. Just kidding, I gave Nina my business card some time ago.

An Interesting Idea
Bob Vorsanger (at the podium) is the regional Sale Manager for Tyson’s Food Service Group. Richard introduced me and said Bob should learn about One Can A Week. I thought so, too. However, before I said anything about One Can A Week, I thanked him a bunch of times for his company’s generosity because lots of hungry folks are going to enjoy some very fine protein soon.

Since One Can A Week is an idea not an organization I started there and said we need no funding. But I would really like companies such as Tyson involved. They could help promote One Can A Week across the country as part of their community service campaign. They would continue to donate tons of chickens as they do annually, and in addition, ask citizens in every community to donate One Can A Week Once they got involved, other food companies would join them because it is only added words to their campaigns not added expenses. This simple corporate gesture of promoting One Can A Week in neighborhoods everywhere would really put hunger in America on the ropes.

Bob said he wouldn’t mind being added to our email list and he gave me his business card. Now that’s a good sign.

At the Weigh-in
Bobby Matney spent Sunday helping me pick up this brimming shopping cart of food, all 188 lbs. of it. It was hard work and his mom said it required a two hour nap for him to recalibrate. Now it’s Monday and Bobby gets to see how the food is distributed at the Community Food Bank Then its back to school without any snooze time.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, September 14, 2009

36th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks

Proxy Neighbors
Jorge Ruiz lives on Highland and 13th Street. He stopped by my home a couple of weeks ago to say his boss Dot Kret wanted her whole company to participate in the Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week food donation program. Dot, he explained, owns dka Employment on the corner of Vine and Broadway. They are a service organization that “helps people become employable and employed.” Jorge told me he would be responsible for encouraging the staff to participate and for gathering of the food donations every Friday. My job would be to pick up the donations the same day. But first I had to make a presentation at their Thursday staff meeting and tell everyone about One Can A Week.

It was a few minutes shy of 12:30 pm when I arrived at dka. The meeting is held in the large waiting room which is in front of Jorge’s reception counter. After being there only a few minutes I could see why Dot picked Jorge to manage the food donation program. He not only answers the phones, he also directs traffic like one of those talented police officers posted on YouTube who point, spin, blow a whistle and dance to keep the cars flowing smoothly. The only difference is Jorge doesn’t have a whistle.

People sauntered casually into the room and took a seat. The scene reminded me of a story my dad once told me about a time and motion study a couple of engineers ran at a factory during a fire drill. Dad was a VP of production for Arrow and Van Heusen shirt manufacturers so he knew about such things. When the fire alarm was pulled, it took nearly 7 minutes to empty the building, dad said, but for kicks the engineers stayed around and clocked the people at quitting time. They cleared the building in 45 seconds.

Paying Attention to Human Nature
This recollection gave me an idea about how I was going to approach my presentation to these folks. One Can A Week only works when someone picks up the food at people’s homes. If people are asked to bring a can to a gathering or an office, the interest soon wanes. When everyone finally arrived I started off by telling the fire drill story and got quite a laugh. Then I mentioned that things don’t work if you go against human nature. The questions and discussion got to the crux of the One Can A Week program right away. How are they going to be reminded to bring in a can? Who is going to remind them? Email and Jorge turned out to be the answers to their questions. I suggested they even bring in four cans to the office and when their supply dwindles to two cans, restock. They liked that idea.

Speaking of human nature, an attractive woman who stood about 20 feet in front of me began to wink, smile and make cute contorted facial expressions about halfway through my presentation. I was able to keep my train of thought going but my mind sure took note of the display. After 10 seconds or so into the smiling and winking I noticed that there was no real eye contact and that her gaze was directed more at my left shoulder. I stopped talking for a second and turned around. Standing directly behind me was a woman holding a baby. Now that was amusing on so many levels.

A Teachable Moment
Pauline Hechler, VP of Development at the Community Food Bank spent the weekend in Phoenix covering for her daughter Phoebe who had to go out of town for a few days. Not only did the “covering” involve baby sitting for 2 and 5 year old boys, but Phoebe is also the coordinator for One Can A Week in her neighborhood. This was Pauline’s first experience with physically collecting food from neighbors and she was kind enough to send me a note about her adventures. “I pulled the boys in the wagon and, after a bumpy (no pun intended) start, the food started appearing on front porches and it was like Christmas morning! Then came the conversation about how they couldn’t eat the mac and cheese or the fruit cocktail because it wasn’t for them; it was for people who need food. This is a marvelous way to help kids gain a perspective on their lives and the lives of strangers.”

It was a little different with Bobby and me when we collected our food. Bobby would say, “Okay, I’m keeping this one,” every time he found Snack Packs, Beef and Noodles or anything tasty on the porches. Of course it was his running joke the whole day but I could see he was glad that folks in trouble were getting food that even he thought was a treat.

Rotary Roundup
Jack Steindler scooted out of the door as soon as the Old Pueblo Rotary meeting ended today but when he spotted me he stopped just long enough to tell me proudly that his neighbors at Villa Hermosa collected 93 cans for the Community Food Bank. That’s a bunch since they only have 32 or so residents at this time.

Suzanne Ashby is also collecting food from her neighbors but she is adding it to the Old Pueblo Rotary Club donation which was pretty heavy this week due to her efforts.

Another Tucson Neighbor Steps Up
This was the first Sunday Susie Carrier initiated One Can A Week in her Ironwood Ridge neighborhood. She heard about what we are doing in our Miles neighborhood on the radio a few Sundays back and she wanted to give it a go in hers. Ironwood Ridge—located near West Grant and N. Silverbell— is neighborhood #170 on the City of Tucson Registered Neighborhood Associations map. (Here's a link to the pdf map. Ironwood Ridge is located on the map in the big red 1 box, to the right and just above #188. The 1 in 170 falls on a line. Increase the pdf size to 150% to see things more clearly.)

Susie had a few trepidations about starting a community service commitment but after several emails back and forth, she got a handle on things. In fact, she did such a good job, her neighbors complimented her in a matter of hours after she completed her first food collection. Elnora, one of her very considerate neighbors wrote, “Thank YOU for caring enough to do all that work by yourself!! It is a lot of work!”

Yes it is, but it’s fun work and we thank you, too, Susie for making a difference in another Tucson neighborhood.

Rounding the Third Quarter Bend
There are just two more weeks left in this third quarter and we are really showing our charitable muscle. We collected 188 lbs. of food and $7.50 in cash. When we stopped by Krysten and Rob’s house, they were kind of chiding themselves for missing last week. They couldn’t believe they forgot. Like Krysten and Rob, I think we all see that although it appears not to be much, One Can A Week makes a big difference ... for hungry folks and in our hearts.

See you Sunday.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

35th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks

Lucky Bobby, Revisited
Around 11:30 am rain, thunder, lightening and a stiff breeze threatened to the west so I decided to not drive the Cabriolet and then nothing but sunshine happened. The whole Sunday was just like that. It looked like things were heading for a rough patch and then suddenly puppy dogs were jumping in your face.

Bobby was on time and hopped into the car as soon as I drove up. He was over the flu he had last week and was eager to start collecting food. There was something else, too. We were going to eventually see his friend Christina and her parents Eric and Nicole at the Arroyo Chico Apartments. I got how important that stop was when Bobby grabbed his shirt and gave it a good sniff and said, “Whew, I used too much cologne.” I didn’t smell a thing.
Although Bobby was not terribly energized his first Sunday because of the pending flu, he certainly remembered an incredible amount of details about most neighbors. He knew where the food was on the porch, where I put the Thank You note and what different items such as chairs and flower pots were also on the porch. I was amazed and impressed. He said it was fun and exciting to collect the food. At one stop a neighbor walked up to us clutching a small parcel and one very large shopping bag. She handed me the small parcel and Bobby reached right over my left arm to take the large bag which I could see was full of books. “No,” she said, “that’s for the library.” Walking back to the car Bobby expressed his disappointment in the fact that the big bag wasn’t food. He got the bug in just one week by watching me. And I knew he was thinking, “Give me the food…now!” because I’m smiling and thinking that all the time.

We arrived at the Arroyo Chico Apartments around two. Eric said Christina was not around and Nicole was resting but told me I could stop by later. I had a 5 pm dinner planned with friends so I said I would be back at 4. Bobby took the news well and kept on smiling.

Where Manlove and Cherry intersect Bobby saw a couple of houses and asked if I had called on them. I had and left the flyer but hadn’t met anyone yet. No one was home at the first house when we knocked so I left another flyer. The second house was different. When the young man in a white sleeveless undershirt and gold chain around his neck opened the door, he instantly got our rapt attention. His belt buckle was a bejeweled gold Glock pistol outlined in rhinestones. I thought they were rhinestones. I hoped they weren’t diamonds. Who could afford such a thing? I also noticed that the Glock looking gold belt buckle was only about a half inch thick so I started breathing again. And since Bobby didn’t take off running I told my feet to stick with him. After I explained to the young man who we were and what we were doing, he went back in the house and got a can of food for us. He also said he would gladly participate. A little more of that Bobby luck on display.

At our first stop on Manlove a woman opened the door and following a brief greeting said, “Who’s wearing that terrific cologne. What’s it called?” I pointed to Bobby and he said, “Polo.” I still didn’t smell anything. Guess I’m really out of the game.

She gave us a whole bunch of food and then asked Bobby if he had a bible at home. Bobby didn’t so she left us and quickly returned with a bible. She said she marked a few of passages that related to food and feeding the hungry. Later Bobby said he appreciated the gift of the bible and was going to start to read it right away. His folks sure have something to be really proud of don’t they.

On the Way to Dinner
A few minutes after 4 I knocked on Eric’s door again. He came outside with his cute little 3-year-old daughter who darted around so quickly I didn’t catch her name. While keeping a close eye on her and saying the word no quite often almost as if it were periods and commas in our conversation, Eric explained that he and Nicole decided that One Can A Week at the Arroyo Chico Apartments will become Christina’s project with their backup support whenever she needs it. He wants to teach Christina community service and the responsibility of caring for those in need. (There’s that word responsibility again!) Also, he added with a smile, “She knows more people in the complex than we do.” When I mentioned this new plan to Bobby, he immediately volunteered to help her. What a guy!

Taking One Can A Week to School
Pamela Stein a math teacher at Gridley Middle School near Harrison and Broadway also teaches a class called Life Skills. She read Pauline Heckler’s article on One Can A Week in the Arizona Star a months or so ago and invited both Pauline and me to make a presentation to her two Life Skills classes. And we obliged. Pauline talked about the Community Food Bank’s role in the community and the many ways the food bank fights hunger in Pima County. When Pauline discussed the cost of a 1,000 calorie meal at a fast food restaurant and a comparable 1,000 calorie balanced meal containing low fat meat and appropriate fruits and vegetable, the class really sat up and took notice. It turned out to be $1.83 vs. $18 and change. Poor people have to struggle to eat healthy but they have a champion in the Community Food Bank. By helping neighborhoods, schools and ordinary people build and maintain gardens all over the county, healthy diets are coming to the rescue.

My part of the program centered around One Can A Week and how the students could get personally involved with community service. But first they had to learn some facts about themselves and life first. After writing 18 – 82 – 100 on the electronic board we discussed what lies ahead for them. At 18 they are considered responsible young adults and then for the next 82 years based on our nation’s expanding longevity, they have a great deal of time to help make a better world. But they have to start now thinking about who they want to be because by 18 things are pretty much set in motion. When asked what they thought about being responsible for their own future, one young lady timidly said it was “scary.” Just today President Obama in his speech to the nation’s schools discussed personal responsibility, too. If more and more folks talk about personal responsibility it won’t be so scary, that’s for sure.

When the students were listening to our words their reaction was a bit muted. However as Pauline and I were packing up, a new class poured into the room with many of the same students we talked to earlier. They were coming back for a math class, but instead of taking their seats, the surrounded us asking all kinds of questions. We took this as a sign we reached a few of them as they were encouraged to think about their many, many tomorrows.

Leave ‘em Laughing
Although we were talking about some pretty heavy ideas for 12 and 13-year-olds at the Gridley Middle School, the last piece of information was a joke on something they hear constantly …never give up. This cartoon was in the handout and illustrates that things can be dire but solutions are available, too…even humorous ones.

Catalina Vista Becomes a One Can A Week Neighborhood
Through the efforts of Lisa Hepner, historic Catalina Vista bordered by Campbell, Grant and Tucson Blvd and Elm Street, is the first 200-plus homes neighborhood to join the Miles Neighborhood in weekly food collections for the Community Food Bank. You can visit Lisa’s blog—One Can A Week2 -—and follow the adventures of Lisa and her wonderful family. It’s well worth the click of your mouse.

We in the Miles Neighborhood have not only collected a lot of food over the past 35 weeks for the Community Food Bank, we have also defined a new way to involve entire neighborhoods in community service. Click the photo or link and read the essay on how we are beginning to fix the help chain. Think you’ll be fascinated to learn that your donation of One Can A Week is really changing the world.

Great End to a Long Hot Summer
It was another holiday weekend which usually portends lots of folks out and about with family and friends. This may have been the case but those hanging around the hacienda raided their pantries and their piggy banks. We collected 170 lbs of food and $33 in cash and checks. This is the second highest poundage this summer. Way to go, folks!

See you Sunday.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Mending the Broken Link in the Help Chain

How to get whole neighborhoods involved in community service.

A Germ of an Idea
In mid December 2008, I got an idea after watching a news story on our Community Food Bank here in Tucson. They were really struggling to meet the demands placed on them by the shrinking economy and an ever expanding unemployment rate. I thought that if every neighbor —nearly one million of them—donated one can of food a week, hunger could be eliminated in this city. The next thought I had was to make this idea my personal community service. Wait a second; I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m 67-years-old and have never done any community service but suddenly I have a personal community service program. The truth is I viewed community service as tedious committee meetings where hours are spent on nuance and non action. Then Senator Barack Obama, now President Obama came into my life and things started to change. I voted for President Kennedy. For the next 40 years I always ended up voting against, not for, someone. This election I finally got to vote for someone again. That’s the kind of change I mean—more emphasis on the positive.

Over the years I’ve helped people with traumatic brain injury get back into the work force and business people navigate out of tough times. The books I’ve authored were consumer reference tools and I even invented the first USB pet ID tag that protects dogs and their owners. I admit all of these helping hands I extended were mostly one on one.

A few months before the November election I saw a TV program on Senator Obama’s community organizer career and I suddenly had a bit of an epiphany about community service. One can be in a community service organization but that doesn’t matter. The idea is to just “do something.” What a great way to look at community service.

It was late December, 2008 and I was still thinking about community service so I decided to go to a local Committee 4 Change meeting. They were holding these house party meetings all over the city trying to get people involved in community service. Even though it looked like a “nuance and no action” get together, I pushed myself there anyway.

The invitation asked me to bring a community service idea and I did. I even wrote the idea on a 3”x3” yellow Post-It Note and stuck it on a white board as instructed. It took nearly an hour and a half for the meeting moderator to get to my idea. During all that time I had to listen to folks talk about their arts programs and political action groups which all required funding. Since the recession was just picking up a head of steam and our state government was feverishly looking for things to cut from the state budget, I sat there a bit amazed and amused.

Finally the moderator, waving my yellow piece of paper about said, “Whose idea is ‘Feeding the Hungry ’”. I started out by saying that here’s an idea that doesn’t need any funding. All you do is go around to your neighbors and pick up a can of food a week from them and take it to the Community Food Bank. By the looks on their faces I think I lost them at “doesn’t need any funding.”

But I pressed on. I told them I would create all of the collateral material they would need and send it to them as Word documents. I’d also go to the Community Food Bank and get their permission and copy approval on the collateral material.

No takers there. On the drive home I was a little disappointed…no, a lot disappointed that I could not interest anyone in helping their neighbors help the Community Food Bank. This was my first exposure to the “help chain disconnect” which—I have to tell you—went right over my head and out the car window that sunny afternoon.

As I got closer to my home I remembered President Obama’s community organizer story. I knew I had a good community service idea. It was simple and folks will have no trouble whatsoever reaching into their pantries instead of their pockets to support hungry people. I’m just going to do it myself…that’s what I’m going to do, I thought. I believe I even smacked the steering wheel in my resolve. Okay, now I’m back on track.

Do Something
Within a week I created a neighborhood food donation program called “One Can A Week” that included a short flyer explaining the program—which I ran by the Community Food Bank and got their approval—a sign up sheet and “Thank You” and “Sorry We Missed You” cards.

That first Sunday I nervously approached my closest neighbors to ask them to participate. At this point I didn’t collect any food. I picked Sunday between 11:30 am and 5 pm because it seemed to me that this was the only time during the week that most of my neighbors were home. This time slot was after Sunday services and hours before folks had to start thinking about getting ready for Monday. It turned out I was right, most were home and feeling charitable.

Every neighbor I talked to that first Sunday—about 10 in all—agreed to participate in the Community Food Bank donation program. I told them that I would stop by every Sunday to pick up at least one can of food and they could just put it on the porch. I would leave a “Thank You” card so they would know that I was the one who took the can. If there were no food on the porch, I would leave the “Sorry We Missed You” card and stop by again the next Sunday. (There is some kind of magic in the “Sorry We Missed You” card because on the following Sunday I usually find a whole lot more food. Maybe it’s just guilt, not magic.)

On the second Sunday in January, my personal community service program began in earnest. I was even more nervous than the week before because this was the true test. Were my neighbors being nice by saying they would participate just to get me off their front porch or were they kind of serious about doing something for the community?

On the dot of 11:30 am I left my home with shopping bag, clip board, note cards and flyers in hand. There it was, the first can on the porch of my next door neighbor. I was so excited and nervous picking up the can, I dropped all of the “Thank You” cards. And there was a can at the next house and the next house. All 10 neighbors had a can ready.

Then I spent a few hours talking to more of the neighbors on my block and one block down. Most said they would participate, then darted back into the house and returned with a can or two. The first official Sunday collection netted 20 lbs. of food which I delivered to the Community Food Bank on Monday morning. That was a proud day.

35 Weeks Later and Counting
We have just completed our second quarter and the total food we collected amounted to 4,411 lbs. or enough food to feed 1,311 folks three meals in one day. Every participant in the Miles Neighborhood is surprised, astonished and really pleased they are involved in a community service project that is making a difference. The expression I hear the most is “keep up the good work.” I usually say thanks and that I definitely will. But at those times my thought is “I’ve got to keep coming up with ways to help keep my neighbors engaged. They’re my customers and I’ve got to serve them well.”

Firing Up Other Neighborhoods
Now that I have my Miles Neighbors in a good place—which only requires about 2.5 hours on Sunday including a 45 minute lunch break to collect the food donations—I have time to encourage other neighborhoods to pick up the gauntlet. A few weeks ago I made a presentation to the board of the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association. The Sam Hughes neighborhood is a very large and very historic neighborhood here in Tucson. The response I got was somewhat typical of the responses I get from individuals. They think One Can A Week is a terrific idea and immediately they suggest sending out flyers telling people to deliver food to a local neighborhood location such as a library. As politely as possible I say that is not how the idea works, you have to individually ask your neighbors to participate and then pick up the food weekly.

Here it is again, that help chain disconnect. At this juncture I still don’t have a clear image of what that disconnect is but I do talk to my friends about it. At lunch the day after my Sam Hughes Neighborhood meeting I tell Bill Roach my business partner what happened the night before. Bill who is a very astute and humorous marketer listened to me for awhile and then said. “Of course you have to go pick up the donations, most Americans just want to stay home and sit on their cans.” I felt better because he got me laughing but not really that much better.

Help Your Neighbors Help!
One evening a few months ago, I was speaking to Barbara Farragut, my 12th Street neighbor. She volunteered to collect food on her street to lighten my work load. Barbara is a professional nurse and an executive whose opinion I really value. Actually she’s a hard working skeptic and my reality check. Barbara says she is helping because she is amazed at how committed the neighbors are to the weekly food donation drive and she wants a front row seat to see just how long it will last. Her thinking is the weekly emails, web blog, quarterly reports and intermittent news stories on One Can A Week activities—which her neighbors tell her they really like—is the glue that holds One Can A Week together. Barbara’s betting it’s epoxy glue so she’s in it for the long haul. She makes me laugh.

That night we were talking about my lack of success in convincing others to assume my role in their neighborhoods. My question to Barbara was rhetorical. “How hard is it to help your neighbors get into community service? It is just customer service. I don’t understand why there is such a break in the help chain.”

I fell silent for a moment. That’s it! All those managers and coordinators I spoke to about One Can A Week have a break in their help chain. They think that their involvement in community service—or anything for that mater—just requires them to tell people what to do and the people should do it. What they fail to understand is you help people, you don’t tell people when you want to get something done. It’s the first link in the Help Chain.

Looking for Leaders
For the past several months I have been telling all kinds of people about One Can A Week and its ability to put food on the table of the needy and life back into neighborhood communities. Until I started asking individuals, neighborhood organizations, social clubs, TV and radio audiences, newspaper readers and faith based communities to step up and get involved, I really did not know or appreciate the meaning of the word apathy. For someone like me this situation is discouraging yet encouraging at the same time.

Recently, a gentleman came up to me after my presentation to a breakfast club meeting where no one had any interest in learning more about One Can A Week and said that I was living a life of selfless service which turned out to be one of his club’s mottos. I saw the irony but kept it to myself. This feeling I have to help folks in need whether it’s those wanting food or involvement in community service is probably similar to those feelings volunteer Little League or reading coaches get. But they are already busy helping kids. And I’ll bet they are always asking for help, too, because the task is great and important and the kids just keep coming.

Until I met President Obama on the TV and the Internet and thought of One Can A Week, I wasn’t into group help so I guess I have to be more patient and appreciate that there is a learning curve to everything.

Good things are happening though. Because of the national publicity about the Miles Neighborhood Food Donation Program which appeared in USA Today and The New York Time,
folks in neighborhoods in Phoenix, North Carolina and Kentucky are starting their own One Can A Week programs. Another good thing is we have a friend in Sandy Scott, the Director of Media at the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington, DC, who keeps an eye on us and helped us get that wonderful publicity which we could have never gotten by ourselves.

The Help Chain is beginning to mend, I can see that. And telling people the answer is really not an effective way to foster the healing process. I just have to keep on helping my Miles neighbors help and then stir in a little publicity now and then. Actions do speak louder than words; however, it sure would be nice if some community service entrepreneurs like myself just picked up the ball and ran with it. Kids and people have to eat three times a day, you know.

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