Monday, November 2, 2009

43rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Sam Hughes Neighborhood to Begin One Can A Week Program
Rick Stertz, the chairman of the Sam Hughes Community Action Committee opened the Wednesday, October 28th Sam Hughes Quality of Life Survey presentation meeting with little fanfare. He mentioned that Capt. David Neri, Midtown Division Commander of the Tucson Police Department would discuss crime statistics and crime reduction solutions. He would then be followed by Gabriel Head and Tania Capin the people who conducted the Quality of Life Survey. None of his words portend the dramatic effect the information divulged by these three speakers would have on the 30 or so Sam Hughes neighbors that night.

By his studied manner it was apparent Capt. Neri had spoken to hundreds of professional groups in his 35 years as a police officer. His first slide was a simple graph but it showed the problem in a nutshell. The crime rate in the 1.1 square mile Sam Hughes Neighborhood at the end of 2008 was at 35% and moved up to 38% in at the end of 2009. However, July – August saw a downward trend. Burglary, auto theft, and narcotics made the list, but larceny accounted for most of the police reports. Larceny, as Capt. Neri explained involves computers and iPods taken from unlocked cars, bicycles from porches and the like.
I thought I heard a pin drop. The Sam Hughes Neighborhood is one of the most prestigious and elegant neighborhoods in Tucson. How could crime get to be such a problem there? It turns out that community involvement is at a low ebb in Sam Hughes as with many neighborhoods in Tucson. The solutions Capt. Neri offered included a Neighborhood Watch Group and our One Can A Week program. Neighbors have to begin to interact with each other on their blocks on a regular basis, he suggested. Criminals know that there is a higher risk of being apprehended when a neighborhood is engaged so they move elsewhere.

In every meeting at our Miles Neighborhood Association, Officer Kevin Zinn provides a police report and there is very little activity, mostly some larceny around the Circle K. Josie Zapata has a morning patrol that spray paints the graffiti on the arroyo bridge and light poles and there may be a stolen car now and again. Sam Hughes is at least 10 times bigger than we are but size is not a relevant factor here.

How the Quality of Life Survey Came to Be
Next on the program were Gabriela Head and Tania Capin. Gabriela explained that she and a group of friends met at the Rincon Market to talk about crime in the
Sam Hughes Neighborhood and out of those discussions came a plan to survey more Sam Hughes neighbors to see if they too, were concerned about quality of life issues in the neighborhood. Gabriela said she brought her friend and associate Tania into the project who helped create and manage a survey involving 40 volunteers. And yes, most neighbors surveyed had issues with the crime rate and the quality of life in the neighborhood.

Enter One Can A Week
Shortly after the survey was conducted and prior to a final analysis of the collected data, I made a presentation to the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association about One Can A Week. The president of the association, John O’Dowd suggested I met Gabriela Head and get her input. We had coffee one afternoon and discovered that our community service programs needed each other. Even in the early analytical stages of her survey, Gabriela and Tania knew they had to find a neighborhood activity to foster community involvement. About the same time I discovered that in order to get a neighborhood like Sam Hughes involved in collecting food for the Community Food Bank, I had to find a hook, a device that affected the neighborhood in a positive way. Amazingly, crime reduction was the hook. Who knew! Well, Gabriela knew the moment I explained the concept of One Can A Week to her.

Lines at Our Little Table
The October 28th meeting was in the works for months and Gabriela wanted to be sure One Can A Week would be represented. To help me I asked Barbara Farragut my 12th Street neighbor and friend and Lisa Hepner a friend who collects One Can A Week from her Catalina Vista neighborhood. Good thing I did because each of us had several Sam Hughes neighbors to talk to right after the meeting broke up. Lisa ended up with the most prospects because she threw in her Dining For Women organization which, as their web site describes, “is a dinner giving circle. We "dine in" together once a month, each bringing a dish to share, and our "dining out" dollars are sent to international programs empowering women.” Lisa’s strategy is to encourage both One Can A Week and Dining For Women in the Sam Hughes Neighborhood. That works for me.

Taking Care of the Troops
Seventeen-year-old Colin Reed and his mother Carol in Wake Forest, North Carolina collect One Can A Week from their 50 or so neighbors—stated incorrectly in the article as is my status—

but instead of donating the food to the communityfood bank, Colin drops off his donation at the local VFW. To quote the Wake Weekly article his mother sent to me, “The military is something I have a strong affinity toward,” (Colin) Reed said. “I believe a veteran who has served our country and is without food is wrong. These people deserve help more than anyone.” Now there’s a young man who not only gets it, but he is doing something to make things right. It’s nice to see one of our future leaders already leading.

A Call from The New York Times
Stephanie Strom covers philanthropy for The Times and usually writes about very large and very wealthy organizations. Unfortunately, the economy has slowed or nearly stopped the giving activities of most major donors. But she had as idea. Stephanie wants to write an article on giving small but on a consistent basis. This is what we do in the Miles Neighborhood. So she is including our story in her November 12th article. I thanked her very much for all of us.

Just Enough Halloween Candy
To tell you the truth, I expected to pick more Halloween candy Sunday because I figured it was a great way to get the temptation out of the house. I got a bag or two and that was it. Guess everyone was thinking that folks in need should be provided more nutritious fare than something for the sweet tooth. There was lots of tuna fish, beans, peanut butter and apple sauce. You were right and I was wrong. But in my defense, I think I was influenced by the Twizzlers Ed and Liz Altamirano gave me to munch on when I picked up their donation. We collected 168 lbs. of food, 2 lbs. of bread and $9.00 in cash.

See you next Sunday.


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