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.


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