Monday, December 14, 2009

49th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Welcome Back Barrio San Antonio
There were two more houses on 12th Street to hit. I pulled the gear shift out of park and into drive and looked up to see Lori and Dennis walk toward the front of my car smiling from ear to ear and carrying a large plastic bag. They surprised me because I hadn’t seen them park their truck at the curb just 30 feet ahead of me. Guess I was too focused on putting the food in the back seat and getting situated behind the wheel. I jumped out of the car to greet them.

“We just collected this food from the Barrio San Antonio,” Lori said. “It was fun but scary.”

I had not expected that they would just start collecting food in the neighborhood because for the past week I was trying to ease them into the process by first meeting with Aisling who collected food there a few months back. Guess they aren’t into easing. They said they started in the back portion of the neighborhood and covered a few blocks. Some folks gave them food. Other said they would be ready next week. Lori and Dennis also said that a number of neighbors told them to keep up the good work even though it was their first Sunday. They found those words very encouraging.

When I asked them how it felt to walk up to a home, knock on the door and ask for a food donation, they both got a little uneasy. “That’s the hard part,” Dennis replied, “but I can tell once you make the initial calls, it gets easy, even fun collecting the food.”

His words reminded me of something I recently read about Presidents Obama in his book The Audacity of Hope when he got into politics and had to make cold calls drumming up donations for his first campaign.

“You know that hollow or insecure feeling you have in your gut when knocking on the door,” I asked, “we all get that even President Obama. He said when confronted with making those calls, he used to take frequent bathroom breaks, go for coffee a lot and talk about fine-tuning his speeches with his staff. Anything to avoid the dreaded calls.”

They laughed and I could see they felt better. “It’s painful, “Lori admitted, “but soon we will know everyone in the neighborhood and those calls will be done. And besides, look at all the food we just collected.”

They’re going to be good at One Can A Week. It’s obvious they like responsibility because they just jumped right in.

SHS (Scott Hughes Solution)
Tucson has scores of housing developments and communities where door to door solicitation is verboten by the association even if one is a resident in the community. I have been thinking about a way to introduce One Can A Week to these often upscale residences but to no avail. Then today my business partner told me about his best friend Scott who has introduced One Can A Week into his community with little fanfare but it’s working like a charm.

Instead of visiting his neighbors one by one, he puts up a sign on the communal mailboxes (the associations don’t even like the postman going door to door) asking for food donations for the Community Food Bank. He provides a box by the mailboxes every Wednesday where his neighbors can drop off their One Can A Week.

This is brilliant. They are near their homes and they go to get their mail six days a week. It is a routine, not a hardship as delivering a can a week to the office or school would be. Instead of putting the donation on their porches, they put it in a box by the mailboxes. This is the next best thing to a porch. Scott picks up the boxes of food Wednesday night and repeats the process the next week. Then every month Scott will post the amount of food they have collected to keep his neighbors informed and motivated.

The best way One Can A Week works is to pick up the food from neighbors weekly. But Scott may have just invented another best way to get solicitation-free communities involved. Great going, Scott!

Christmas Greeting from Carol & Colin
My neighbors who live in the big house (I live in the guest or small house in the back) are always my first stop on Sundays. They weren’t home so I was about to stick a Sorry We Missed You card in the steel screen door when I noticed a large envelope addressed to me on the porch next to the door. Guess it didn’t fit in the mail box so the postman left it there yesterday. By the return label I could see it was from Carol and Colin in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I hurried back to the car to see what was inside. They are the mother and son team who collect food for the hungry soldiers at their local VFW.

I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. The Christmas card slid out first. I love dogs and cats and smiled. I didn’t recognize the other animal right away but later saw the tiniest image was a mouse. That’s when I got the sentiment…Peace on Earth…a dog and a cat and a mouse who are often at odds enjoying the spirit of the holiday. Of course I was touched, especially by the kind words they wrote inside. They also sent along a unique gift, a bumper sticker. I never put decals on my car but I just had to make an exception in this case. It’s a gift from Carol and Colin and says, “Got One Can A Week?” Peace on earth worked on me, too.

There is Humor in Everything
In our last Miles Neighborhood meeting I asked Abe Marques our 5th Ward representative what will it take to get the scores of potholes fixed on our streets? I knew from past discussions that you have to call the city and give them a house address that is in proximity to the damaged street. So I told Abe I would drive around and get a location on each pothole and give him the list. He said if he had a list he would be happy to handle it. A day or so after I emailed my pothole list (22 in all) to Abe, my friend Ernesto Portillo, Sr. told me he just heard on the radio that the street maintenance budget was stretched and besides, the temperature was 55 degrees and heading south. Like me, I guess pothole filler doesn’t work well in the cold.

As I left for work two days following my conversation with Ernesto I noticed all of the potholes were fixed. Way to go Abe! I thank you and my axles thank you. In the next day or so if you could call Abe Marques at 791-4231 to thank him or simply send him an email at I certainly would appreciate it. Or you can join me at our monthly Miles Neighborhood meeting this Wednesday, December 16th at 6:30 pm in the Miles School and thank him personally. That’s what I am going to do.

I did notice one rather large pothole surrounded by a bunch of budding potholes that was not repaired. It is on Miles Street in front of my friend’s house. (See photo on right.) I thought perhaps the oversight might have something to do with my friend’s political affiliation in our decidedly Obama neighborhood. Just kidding! Abe will have that nasty pothole fixed in no time now that he knows about it.

Two Shopping Carts, Two Stories
Kim and Mario on 13th Street had a party Saturday and they asked all of their invited guests to just bring themselves and a food donation for the Community Food Bank. With their added support we collected 230 lbs. of food this week (our average is 162 lbs.) and $170 in cash and checks. And notice that even the Rice A Roni got into the holiday festivities.

For the past two weeks the Community Food Bank through the media has been asking folks to donate breakfast cereal because they are experiencing a shortage. Miles folks got the message and added a number of huge boxes of cereal to their regular donations. Imagine if all of Tucson’s neighborhoods were participating in One Can A Week. The Community Food Bank could put out a special call one week and meet their demands the next. I can see it happening … we just need to keep on pressing forward.

See you Sunday,


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