Monday, October 26, 2009

42nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The Neighborhood Gets Even More Neighborly
Josie Zapata and her small dedicated crew did a wonderful job putting the Family Fun Night together this past Sunday at the Miles School. There were families in attendance from all corners of the neighborhood. And it was especially pleasing to see folks from the Chico Arroyo Apartments join in the fun.

The next Family Fun Night will be held on December 8th. Not sure what the theme is but who cares, Josie’s parties are always fun. Please mark you calendars but don’t worry, we will send you a reminder or three.

Nothing Left to Do but Enjoy
Josie Zapata (right) spent a month planning for the Family Fun Night on Sunday at the Miles School playground and then sat down to let the late afternoon event unfold. There were plenty of pumpkins and pumpkin-carving enthusiasts to make this neighborhood get together a great success.

Kids Carve Away
Josie said she confiscated the three sharpest knives from the
stack of pumpkin carving knives but no one seemed to notice the dull blades as they jumped right into the task at hand. Even scraping out the messy insides and seeds was more fun than a chore.

Parents Carve Away, Too
Kids big enough to carve their own pumpkin got to go ahead on their own. Smaller kids stood back as their parents quickly got immersed in designing scary pumpkin faces. There was lots of conversation on drying of the pumpkin seeds and the baking of pumpkin pies but the little guys kept their focus and pushed their folks to hurry up and finish the job.

Holiday Art
No pumpkin artist at the Family Fun Night was ever completely satisfied with his
or her creation. In fact, as soon as a completed Jack-O’- Lantern was put on display the artist quickly grabbed another pumpkin and started leafing through the design catalog for inspiration. In no time at all the lid was popped off of the Sharpie and the pumpkin, too.

Sam Hughes Neighborhood “Quality of Life” Action Plan Meeting
One Can A Week has been invited to the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association meeting on Wednesday, October 28th at 6 pm. It will be held in the Hardesty Midtown Conference Room located at 1100 S. Alvernon Way which is near the corner of 22nd Street.
Barbara Farragut and I will have a One Can A Week display table so we can explain our “neighborhood-uniting food donation program” to our Sam Hughes neighbors.

This meeting is the culmination of a summer-long study that focused on crime in their upscale neighborhood and ways to implement a positive change. One Can A Week is going to be presented as one approach to building community involvement. If any of you would like to attend to help Barbara and me tell our Miles Neighborhood story, just give me a call and I can make arrangements.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if our whole neighborhood showed up? We wouldn’t have to say a word. The Tucson Police Department would say it all for us. “See that’s how you diminish crime in a neighborhood. Everybody looks out for each other.”

Monster Shopping Cart
Look at the size of that thing. Empty the cart weighs 66 lbs. But we still filled it to the brim with potatoes, individually wrapped sweet buns and toiletries for a grand total of 196 lbs. We also donated $16.00 in cash. Generally people hand us their cash donations but this week there were a couple of dollars in a couple of the plastic bags left on the porch. Now I check every bag just to see if there is an added surprise. Thanks for making this job even more fun.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, October 19, 2009

41st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Another Week Without Bobby
Although Bobby could have made the rounds Sunday, he still had a cough when I went to pick him up at 11:30. He stood back about 5 feet from the car and said he didn’t want to risk infecting me. Really considerate kid!

About 10 minutes later I saw Bobby walking with three of his buddies toward the park. The first thought that raced through my mind was unkind to say the least, but then I heard a couple of them along with Bobby coughing now and again as they walked. I went back to my “good kid” assessment and drove to my next stop.

Together again
Barbara Farragut, a long time Mile resident, remembers when the neighborhood held an annual block party on 12th Street. What she can’t remember is when they stopped or why. She thinks somewhere between when she moved to California years ago and when she came back to take care of her ailing father. "Those block parties were fun and really something," she said.

The block parties came up in our conversation about Josie Zapata’s Family Fun Night scheduled for this coming Sunday, the 25th. Barbara thought it really nice that community get togethers were starting up again.

As I waved goodbye to Barbara and headed toward Miles I thought about why community events die or any social event, for that matter. An hour and a half later when I finished my rounds and left Manlove Street for home a thought rolled into my mind. These events are really not traditions, they are projects managed by people. So I'm thinking, when a neighborhood like Miles finds an event manager like Josie it is wise to support her efforts.

Above is the Invitation Flyer I put together announcing the Mile Neighborhood Family Fun Night.

Next Sunday as another friendly reminder, Barbara, Kym, Lenny and I will hand out these flyers or attach them to your door. Then at 4 pm, with a pumpkin tucked neatly under your arm and family in tow, just head on over to the school playground. You can also bring other goodies if you like and the little ones in their Halloween costumes. They’ll love that because they get to wear their outfit twice.

The last neighborhood get together Josie put on was a very pleasant success. I’m not much of a partygoer but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Keeping in Shape with One Can A Week
The folks in the Villa Hermosa Activities Office came up with a unique way for the residents to increase their donations to the Community Food Bank and keep healthy and fit at the same time. They told the residents that the staff will match their can donation if 10 residents each walk 40 laps around the Villa Hermosa building by Thursday, October 22nd. Today Jack Steindler, an Old Pueblo Rotary Club member and resident said that they collected 40 cans which is double what they normally do each week. “People gave more,” Jack said, “because they wanted to take advantage of the staffs’ terrific offer. And I’m proud that everyone at Villa Hermosa is getting involved with One Can A Week. The staff created this idea, you know.” Jack rolled his eyes and sighed, “Now we have to go exercise to earn those cans. I know this is good for us, but…”

Just Like a Family Shopping List
This week we donated tuna, cereal, canned beans, 100 watt bulbs (near the cart’s handle), dish washing detergent and canned dog food. All of the items amounted to 174 lbs. in addition to a $25 check and $8 in cash.

If you have something lying around the house that you think someone could use to make his or her life a little easier, put it on the porch. As a rule of thumb, if the non food item can be found in a supermarket, there’s a good chance the Community Food Bank can put it to good use.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, October 12, 2009

40th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The birds were singing their little beaks off this Sunday and the air was warming up instead of cooling down. It felt like a beautiful spring day rather than the second week of fall. People I met along my route were talking more about up coming plans; not packing it in for the winter. PJ Trujillo, remember him, he’s the young man on Miles who set up the food drive at his mother’s championship Roller Derby event a few months back. When he opened his door and handed me his cans of food, he said, “Listen, I’ve got to talk to you.”

I’ve heard those particular words before and they always meant something serious was about to happen. For me it invariably was the setup for loosing a girlfriend or worse yet, my job. So PJ had my attention.

PJ quietly said he, along with the help of a classmate, wants to set up One Can A Week or rather One Can A Month at his Miles school. He wondered if I would come to speak to his class and guidance counselor who would coordinate the program. I said sure, any time and gave him my business card.

That was a relief. I didn’t loose anything even though those fateful words were spoken. And when PJ gets his program operational—which I know he will based on his past success—I’m going to have to learn to stop flinching every time someone starts a sentence with “Listen.”

So Much More Than…
Beth Haggerty, a dear friend of mine, lives on one of those wide, winding streets in the Bel Air Ranch Estates way out on Tanque Verde Road. A life-size black stallion mounted on a 6” high pedestal marks the entrance of the estates. A few months after I started One Can A Week, Beth introduced the food donation program to her neighbors. Her mother and dad and her husband Terry also help with the food collection.

For the past few weeks Beth and Terry were in Alaska presenting a Mental Skills Coaching program to several corporations. When she returned she spent a little time catching up with her neighbors and was moved to send me the following email.

“I am beginning to realize just this past week,” Beth wrote, “how the point of the One Can a Week Program is so much larger than just helping to feed the hungry (although that in itself is important).

“It has taken me from knowing little about my neighbors to beginning to know about their lives, their kids, their animals, challenging events, kids going to college, camping trips, home projects - and realizing they care as I do about connecting and giving.

“In our neighborhood, we are now discussing how we can get together more - do a get together every couple of months.

“They did a welcome party for a new neighbor (we were out of town and missed it) and excitedly discussed One Can of Week, so new families are joining!

“I just feel more at home now and that includes my neighborhood.

“Thanks Peter,

“Love, Beth.”

I don’t know about you but “I just feel more at home now and that includes my neighborhood.” knocks me out. We are making a difference with One Can A Week simply by helping our neighbors help.

A Matter of Perspective
Most every week I get a note in the plastic bag that hangs on the fence or door knob with a neighbor’s food donation. Sometimes it’s a greeting card or just a piece of paper with the words, “Keep up the good work.” This week I got such a card but I also had at least three people say those same words to me personally.

I assure them I won’t give up and they can count on me. But they’re the ones doing the good work by having a food donation ready for me to take to the Community Food Bank. I’m kind of like a postman but I work on Sundays. The truth is, I hope all of my neighbors “keep up the good work.” If they don’t, I’m just flapping in the breeze.

Harbinger of Turkey Day
Much of the food collected this weekend was normal, tasty fare such as tuna, string beans and soup. However, someone is thinking ahead and donated a sack of sweet potatoes. I first called them yams but after a little research I called them by their rightful name…sweet potatoes. I will never make that mistake again. Here’s a link to “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes.” You’ll like it even if “who cares” is your favorite expression.

We gathered 166 lbs. of food which included 2 lbs. of non food items (canned dog food) and $10 in cash.

See you next Sunday.


Monday, October 5, 2009

39th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

“Community” Is Back in the Miles Neighborhood Community
For the past few months Josie Zapata on 13th Street rummaged through her house, storage bins and homes of her understanding relatives to gather up all of her teaching tools and games she used over the years. Many she made herself like the 8 foot duel track run constructed out of 6” PVC pipe cut in half.

Josie’s community building idea hatched the night in March I told the Miles Neighborhood Association about my One Can A Week food donation program. She regularly attends these monthly association meetings because she thinks community involvement is very important. We talked afterwards and she said she was concerned kids don’t use our beautiful little Miles playground park that has a basketball court, soccer field, baseball diamond and jungle gym. Josie thought that a family night once-a-month would get the whole neighborhood excited and involved if she showed the kids how to have fun again with simple outdoor games.

Family FunNight was her solution and she pulled it off beautifully this past Sunday. Lots of neighbors and their kids showed up, too. There were sprinklers and huge yellow balls for the little kids and ball games for the bigger kids. The basketball court was the most active with kids and parents playing together.

As the sun set, the conversation turned to the spectacular view. Of course this wonderful display happens every fall night in our neighborhood. But what hadn’t happened here for a very long time—until this evening—was a gathering of neighbors as an engaged community just sitting or standing around the Miles schoolyard discussing Sunday’s football games, the kids growing up and the magnificent sun going down.

Plenty of popcorn was available along with bottled water and fruits and vegetables. A family who had just gotten back from the apple orchards brought an apple cake to share. The EMS guy offered his knife to cut it up. When the knife was returned, he licked his thumb and index finger and began to wipe the blade carefully between them. I asked him if he always cleaned his medical equipment like that. He said I should not worry about how he cleaned his knife. What I should worry about is the ingredients in the cake. Even though the apple cake was very tasty, I put my thoughts about a second piece on hold.

Towards the end of the evening a number of folks mentioned to Josie how fun and delightful the evening was. She turned to me and said, “Peter’s inspiration for One Can A Week was President Obama and my inspiration was Peter.” That was very nice but I was more impressed with her decision to do something about her concerns and frustrations. And the neighbors were right, it was a delightful evening.

Bill Richards, the Miles Neighborhood Association president saw that the kids were having a ball but there was not much for adults to do but talk and munch popcorn. He suggested Bocce ball, a great game with just a little physical activity. Josie is on it and knows where there is a Bocce set unopened. You could see others had ideas about how they would up their participation at the next gathering but kept it to themselves. The sleepy Miles community is awakening.

Josie’s next Family FunNight is scheduled for Sunday, October 25th, a week before Halloween. One thing for sure, there will be lots of candy and tiny ghosts and goblins.

One Thank You Is Just Not Enough
Before our presentation to the second Gridley Middle School Life Skills class in early September, Pauline Hechler, Director of Development at the Community Food Bank and I were asked for our addresses by two of the students. They said they were going to send us a Thank You note. To make it easy for them Pauline and I agreed to give them just one address.

It’s been nearly a month since we talked to the students and I completely forgot about our Thank You note conversation until I open my mail box on Friday. At the time we gave our presentation, I actually thought the teacher, Ms. Pamela Stein, dispatched the two girls to get an address for her. The truth is 48 Gridley Middle School students each sent us a Thank You note filled with their own art and sentiments.

It’s apparent they were given guidelines to follow such as “What did you learn?” and “What did you like?” about our presentations. Everything else was left up their initiative and creativity. As the photograph of the Thank You notes shows, no two are alike.

According to the students, they really liked learning about the Community Food Bank’s maze-like Spiral garden and the Pizza garden featuring vegetable toppings grown in the shape of pizza slices. The whole garden is one giant pizza.

At one point Pauline asked the students to name some of the items they grow in the pizza garden. As they called out tomatoes, onions and spinach, I had a hard time resisting the temptation to say anchovies. If I were in the class I know I would have said it just for the laugh. Those were the days!

The Community Food Bank’s Children’s calendar was also a big hit. Lena wrote, “My favorite part was when we got the cute little calendar. I like all (of) the drawings.”

Many of the students also expressed themselves relative to what they are learning in their Life Skills class. Brandon was perhaps the most insightful. On my story about having dyslexia and authoring 22 books, he wrote, “I found it interesting that even though you had dyslexia, you still taught yourself how to read and write. That is just proof that a disability is not a limitation.”

He summed up his comments by responding to Pauline’s story on helping people in trouble. “I am gonna (sic) help people,” Brandon noted, “by being more kind and respectful.”

Can’t ask for any more than that, Brandon.

In Full Stride
For the past 13 weeks we have been averaging 160 lbs. per week. This means we are at a very comfortable place for us with respect to our One Can A Week donation to the Community Food Bank. If we calculate our collections for the full year, we will donate over 8,000 lbs. of food for the needy here in Tucson. That’s wonderful and amazing at the same time. We are right on target for this week with 162 lbs of food, 1 lb. of non food items and $12.00 in cash.

See you next Sunday.