Tuesday, December 29, 2009

51st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Axis of Good
After lunch on Sunday I drove down Cherry toward Broadway to make a couple of stops. As I got back in the Cabriolet with the first pickup I noticed Bill Richards our association president in the next block walk across Cherry from the Axis Food Mart on the corner to his home and go inside his gate. Guess he saw me, too, because he came out again with a can of string beans in his hand. “Great,” I said as I drove up, “curb service.”



Bill smiled at my joke and then pointed to a figure in the Axis Food Mart parking lot. “Do you see that guy?” he asked, “he’s the new owner of the food mart and he wants to talk to you about One Can A Week.” I always want to talk to people about One Can A Week so I drove up to the front of the store and parked.

The owner came out from behind the counter when I approached and gave me a very friendly greeting. In the next 20 minutes he learned about One Can A Week and I learned about Maen Mdanat, a fascinating man who tries to do one good thing every day. Today he’s selected One Can A Week. He wants to begin the program in his store and he can’t start soon enough.

“What food should I offer to my customers to donate?” he asked while taking out a pen and little pad. I mentioned tuna, black beans, and peanut butter. “Oh, peanut butter is too expensive, how about sardines, I love sardines.”

As he spoke he began writing from the right side of the paper and noticed I was staring. “That’s Arabic.” His English is so good and nuanced that I could not tell where he was from originally. His slight accent gave no clues. But it was only after he spoke about his church, Saint something or other, I can’t recall the name exactly, that I just had to ask.

Jordan. He came to the USA when he was around 27 years old. Prior to that he was in Jordan’s Special Forces and was often called on to act as an interpreter because he not only speaks Arabic, but English and Magyar the Hungarian language as well. On one occasion he interpreted at a meeting with King Hussein and the infamous Nicolae Ceau┼čescu of Romania.

“That was very stressful,” Maen said, “because you really have to know the culture in addition to the language. For example, if someone says, “can of worms’, you just cannot say can of worms because the other party may wonder about the strange diet so you have to think of something to quickly explain the expression.

“You know, I think King Hussein liked me,” Maen admitted,
“because I’m a shorty and he was a shorty, too. After that meeting he came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said I did a good job. That made me feel very good and calmed me down. I didn’t have to worry about whether I was good or bad. I knew.”

Today after delivering our Miles donations, I picked up a large Community Food Bank box and dropped it off at Axis. Maen hurriedly taped up the box and put it right by the front door next to the soda machine. We chatted a few minutes and he asked me to stay around because his favorite distributor, Carl from Coors would arrive soon. He said Carl always helps him raise funds for his church and he should hear about One Can A Week from me. A short time later Seham, his wife and their three young children drove up. In between customers Maen introduced me to his family and then in walked Carl. The whole scene reminded me of a fast paced play where the actors quickly come onto the stage from all directions moving the plot dizzyingly forward.

Maen called just before dinner to ask me when I would have the counter signs ready for him. Our plan is to help educate his customers about the need and the work the Community Food Bank is doing to meet that need. I said tomorrow but he couldn’t wait for the signage and started offering cans for donations a couple of hours ago. Nearly every customer bought a donation can when asked. Actually I think that is why he called. He needed to share his excitement. “It’s amazing,” Maen said, “even a homeless man, after paying for his beer, dug into his pocket for change to pay for the donation. He’s in trouble and even he wants to help.”

With Maen’s energetic charisma supported by his incredible cast of characters I predict that One Can A Week will be a monster hit at the Axis Food Mart. After all, the store is located on Broadway.

Another Overflowing Basket

We have been donating food to the Community Food Bank for 51 straight weeks and just look at the amount and variety. The generosity is boundless here in the Miles Neighborhood and you all should be very proud of your efforts and community service. This week we donated 192 lbs. of food (30 lbs. over our average) and $27 in cash.

Happy New Year to all!

See you Sunday,

Peter

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