Tuesday, December 1, 2009

47th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

It’s Just a Matter of Time
Saturday evening my neighbor Erin asked me to help her remove a nasty virus from her computer. She had spent the better part of the day trying to remove it herself but to no avail. After about 30 minutes I was starting to gain some ground on the vermin when Erin commented on my composure. “You’re so calm,” she said. “Right now I’d be pulling out my hair and clicking on everything.”

Calm, I thought that word funny because she should have seen me earlier in the day when I had lunch with Brian Simpson, the Director of Communications for the Association of Arizona Food Banks. I spent the better part of two hours discussing my frustration with the pace of One Can A Week outside the Miles neighborhood. Brian is sure a good listener which is what I needed. He also came up with some fine suggestions on how to expand my media horizons.

By Sunday morning I was peaceful again because I love getting my clipboard and things ready and prepping my Cabriolet for my food collection run. As I near the west end of Miles Lenny from 12th Street always calls to tell me he and Barbara are finished with their collections. When I drove up to Lenny’s home he hurried out pulling his overflowing cart. “I have lots of money, too,” Lenny said. “Mike and Tamara collected $145 from someplace called the Sanctuary. My minds going, I can’t remember the whole name. I said it a few time to myself as I walked over to Barbara on the other side of the street then suddenly it was gone.”

To make him feel better I said the same thing happens to me with names. It didn’t have much of an effect. I also told Lenny I would stop by and see Mike and Tamara to get all of the details for my update. Lenny smiled. “Thanks, that’ll work.”

Rock Stars in the Neighborhood
After lunch and before heading to 13th Street I stopped by Mike’s house to ask about Sanctuary something. It turns out that Tamara, also known as DJ Plastic Disease and Mike, a member of the Alter Der Ruine band are not only prominent musicians here in Tucson but tour the country promoting themselves, their music and important causes like animal shelters and food banks. Saturday night they performed at Club Sanctuary downtown —oh, that sanctuary— and asked their fans to donate to the Community Food Bank.

As we parted Mike said he would check out our blog and become more familiar with One Can A Week. Then on the road he would try and encourage others across the country to get involved. And to think two musical stars live just three doors down from Lenny.

Stepping Up
Kym was being a dutiful grandmother this weekend and attending her grand kids’ soccer matches out of town so I was helping her with 13th Street. As I walked back to my car to unload my first round of collections, Lori and Dennis flagged me down. “How do we volunteer for One Can A Week?” Lori asked. “We’re ready to help.”

Those are my favorite words but I was a bit surprised. I had just taken a can from their son as I had done for lots of Sundays and not seen his folks much but now here they are standing before me asking to help. They knew Kym collected on 13th Street usually but they said they would collect anywhere near the neighborhood. Right away I thought of the Barrio San Antonio just across the walkway. They participated for over 12 weeks but the neighborhood coordinators got too busy to continue. And there’s the Arroyo Chico Apartments. They immediately agreed and said they would meet me next Sunday to learn the ropes. Well, that was exciting.

With all of the neighbor chit chat I finally finished 1 minute after 4 pm which is about an hours and a half more than it normally takes me. A couple of my neighbors on Manlove, the last of my route, even mentioned my tardiness. “I thought you were sick, maybe, she said handing me her usual can of Campbell soup, “don’t you get sick, we need you.” I promised I wouldn’t.

It Gets Even Better
When I walked in my door I noticed I had an email in the inbox so I got a glass of cold water and plopped down in the chair. What a surprise. It was from Bobby Rich at Mix-FM. I had dropped off the New York Times and Huffington Post articles at the station Tuesday and was told to send him an email because he would be the one to review our One Can A Week idea. When I checked out their website I understood why. Mr. Rich along with the help of his listeners and a matching grant from Tucson Electric Power recently collected over 9,000 lbs of food and over $120,000.

Here’s my email.

Dear Mr. Rich,

I am as concerned about the hungry folks here in Tucson as you are. That is why 11 months ago I started One Can A Week in my Miles neighborhood which is located near Broadway and Campbell. It is my own personal community service program that blossomed into something way beyond anything I imagined.

In one year I will have collected and donated to the Community Food Bank over 9,000 lbs. of food from 120 or so of my neighbors. You accomplished the same goal in one day. That is why I am contacting you.

Imagine if every one of Tucson's 187 recognized neighborhoods participated in the One Can A Week food donation program. Hunger would be eliminated in Tucson. This can be accomplished simply by finding a "coordinator" such as me in the other 185 neighborhoods. (Ironwood Ridge is also collecting One Can A Week.)

With your ability to influence your listeners, I know we will be able to find volunteers who will enjoy becoming a Bobby Rich or Mix-FM Neighborhood Coordinator. Then we can have a food drive every week without promoting on the air week after week. All we will have to do is talk about the weekly totals the neighborhood coordinators collect. And, too, we can collect diapers all year around. (You may know that this is Mr. Rich’s personal annual drive.)

There is another aspect of this program that has excited both Feeding America and the Corporation for Community and National Service in Washington, DC (Serve.gov). They like One Can A Week because it enlists whole neighborhoods in community service. And by the way, those two national organizations helped introduce me to The New York Times and USA Today.

I would like to meet with you for a half hour to explain the One Can A Week program and how you can take us to the next level which is ending hunger here in Tucson…

Mr. Rich’s replay knocked my socks off.

“Peter, I LOVE THIS!

“I am under water right now with holiday programming, the radio play, a vacation if I can squeeze it in and other year end projects. So let's put this off until after the first of the year, OK?

“Please contact me then and we will set up a meeting.

“All the best, and CONGRATULATIONS on a fabulous effort!

“Bobby Rich”

Make Like a Computer Geek
Look what just happened in a matter of 24 hours. Like Erin and her approach to fixing a computer virus, I’m stressing a bit too much about moving One Can A Week forward when it appears to move all by itself if I just continue to make a few contacts and make my rounds on Sunday.

To me computers are mansion with scores of rooms. To fix a problem or find a virus, you have to open a lot of door until you spot the culprit. Might as well be calm while you are doing it. Perhaps I should imagine hunger as a huge food bank. It’s going to take time to fill such a place so calm is definitely the way to go…just like on Sunday.

68 Degrees and Mostly Sunshine
That’s what the weatherman calls for this Sunday so block out 2 hours for more Josie Zapata neighborhood fun at the Miles School playground. Last month parents and kids vigorously hacked up and sawed a bunch of pumpkins. This Sunday we will be thinking more about “goodwill toward all” so Josie’s plan is for everyone to be very busy with sparkles, pine cones and Elmer’s glue. Come alone, come with a whole crew, but please do join your Miles neighbors and friends as we all get into the holiday spirit.

Food and Cash Neck and Neck
This Sunday’s collection was a first. We picked up 188 lbs. of food (plus 2 lbs. of pet food and toddler wipes) which is a very strong weekly donation and exactly $188 in cash and checks. When one factors in the Community Food Bank’s 9 for 1 buying power, the $188 will purchase more than $1,600 in additional food. With such wonderful results each week, I can tell you I’m having fun performing my community service… and I know you are too.

See you Sunday.


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