Tuesday, February 23, 2010

59th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

More From the Motor City
On Friday I received an email from Ursula Adams the webmaster for United Way for Southeastern Michigan. She’s the one who did all that hard work modifying our One Can A Week collateral material for her market. In part Ursula wrote: “…I've been a fan (from afar) for a while!

“I would first like to apologize. I had meant to write to you prior to us going public with our own One Can-a-Week program to let you know we were doing so, but time just got away from me.

“We are trying to aggregate do-it-yourself volunteer projects around the areas of education, financial stability and basic needs (food in particular) for our constituents. Your One Can-a-Week program was a perfect fit and our first attempt at trying to move our volunteers in this direction. So, we haven't had much traction yet, but I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before it starts to pick up momentum. I plan to spend more time in the coming months really pushing out the idea.

“I'll keep you updated as we go forward. Thank you so much for developing this awesome program.”

Thinking About Traction
I haven’t thought about this situation since I wrote the “Mending the Broken Link in the Help Chain” piece many months ago that just stated the problem of helping others to help. Now with Detroit and Bobby Rich in the picture, a concrete system has to be developed to help identify folks who will be most interested in and most likely to succeed with One Can A Week.

Of course, the conundrum of convincing people to pick up the food from their neighbors jumped to the front of my thoughts. But in a matter of minutes a new approached occurred to me. Apparently the idea was fermenting in my brain over these past 6 months.

Why Picking Up One Can A Week Works
When folks hear the concept of One Can A Week many instantly turn the idea upside down and say that they will send out a flyer and get their neighbors to drop off the food at their house.

The reason this will not work—and does not work because is has been tried a number of times—is…the neighbors receiving the request to deliver their donations will follow the same logic of the person making the request to donate and not invest any personal energy in the project. It’s the classic “What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.”

Conversely, if one goes to a participating neighbor’s home every Sunday to pick up the donation, the neighbor will donate every Sunday. It is akin to basic physics: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This was always clear to me but now I think I have better defined the One Can A Week process.

How Can Folks Determine If One Can A Week
Is Right For Them?
This is a customer service question. Years ago when I owned a graphic design and graphic reproduction company in Princeton, NJ I had a heck of a time determining the depth of concern a job applicant might have for a customer. One day I suggested to my VP, who did most of the hiring, that we should put a piece of paper trash on the floor and if the applicant picked it up to throw away, he or she should be hired immediately. We never tested my theory.

Last Saturday I saw a gentleman leave the Rincon Market and just outside the door, stoop down, pick up a piece of paper and throw it in the trash can a few feet away. This brought my customer service concerns all back to me. One Can A Week is nothing but customer service of the most friendly kind. So I thought, how about asking some questions I would answer in the affirmative because I know what makes One Can A Week work.

Here are six questions I think will help people decide if our One Can A Week volunteer program is right for them. If they answer yes to all six questions, this may be the personal community service they’ve been looking for:

1. Do you pick up trash on the sidewalk or in your neighborhood
     because you know it’s not going to happen if you don’t do it?

2. When a friend calls you late at night and is in trouble do you
     race right out the door to help?

3. Are you the one your family or neighbors turn to when
     something unusual happens, expecting you to take charge?

4. Do you have about 5 hours a week to commit to helping your
     neighbors get involved in their neighborhood and
     community service?

5. Do you know the computer or a computer person with whom
     you can partner?

6. Do you like to write or do you know a writer with whom
     you can partner?

As you can see, One Can A Week is all about my neighbors and I’m just there to help.

Small Wonders
Every Sunday Aidan, 5 ½ (left) Asher, 9 months and Caleb, 2 ½ (holding Asher and next to the food bucket) help their mother Phoebe Fox in their Phoenix neighborhood collect One Can A Week. In her email with these terrific photos attached, Phoebe said “It’s a kick having three boys!” That reminded me of a time when I was a few years older than Aidan and helped my dad organize Cub Scout Troops all over the county when we lived in Pennsylvania. He just stood up there talking to folks about the benefits of the scouts for kids, parents and the community. My dad was never a scout himself but his boys were and that convinced him to get involved.

I always admired his ability to just get up in front of a group and start speaking. I never saw him prepare at home or be concerned about giving a talk. That early experience on the road taught me extemporaneous speaking and commitment to a community service idea. Phoebe’s boys are learning the same lessons and will one day figure out who taught them, giving them another reason to love her more.

Our Fruit Cup Runneth Over
With bananas from the Circle K on Broadway and Cherry and lemons from my friend Larry Meskill, our donation to the Community Food Bank topped 274 lbs. Also, 34 lbs. of food from the Axis Food Mart helped out a bunch, too. Cash donations this week amounted to $5.30.

See you Sunday,


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