Monday, March 29, 2010

64th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Just Wow!
With the help of the folks at DKA, the Axis Food Mart, Barbara Farragut and all of those who added an extra can or two to their weekly donation in the first three months of this year, we collected an astonishing 4,769 lbs. of food. This is over half of the 9,203 lbs. we collected all last year. We also donated to the Community Food Bank $763.40 in cash. This, too, is a record pace. If we keep it up, we will surpass last year’s donation by $1,000.

But what I appreciate most is everyone is sticking and staying. Folks are ready for me every Sunday. I have to tell you I feel a little down when I confront the national and local news on the TV every weeknight, but when I get to travel around the Miles Neighborhood on Sundays and experience this island of civility, caring and generosity, my spirits take flight. Your One Can A Week not only feeds the hungry, it is showing the rest of Tucson and the world what is possible if we just help each other help.

We may not set another food collection record next quarter, but one thing is for sure, we will make a difference. (Click on image below to enlarge.)

Maybe it was the homegrown parsley and carrots in the Safeway bag (on the left) that push us over the top. This ordinary looking collection of 174 lbs. of food helped us set our major first quarter record described above. In addition, we collected 14 lbs. of food from the Axis Food Mart and $15.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

63rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Robert and Sarah Understand
Now and again, I see Robert on his bike trailing a small, fully meshed baby coach. The baby–in a rather large, cockeyed helmet—peeks out through the webbing. Today was different because I drove Maen’s new Jeep Liberty that I borrowed to complete my rounds. The Cabriolet’s ignition is acting up mostly because it is 22-years-old and needs to retire.

From my perch high up in the Jeep I waved as Robert and baby hoping they would recognize me. Robert waved when we passed just up the block from his home. I had stopped at Robert’s house earlier but no one was home. They were out peddling in the sunshine I just learned.

After stopping by the last two houses on Miles, I turned around to head back to Warren. At the corner of Miles and Warren I saw Robert again on his bike but no baby coach. He flagged me down.

Not being that familiar with the electrical window buttons in the Jeep, I opened and closed every window in succession going around the car until I finally lowered the passenger side window. Robert had a big smile on his face from watching my antics. He told me he just got his tax refund and he and his wife Sarah wanted to share some of it with the Community Food Bank. The check he handed me was quite impressive. I thanked him very much. “Are you sure?” I asked. He was sure and said, “What the heck, it’s government money anyway.”

I burst out laughing and waved good-bye. As I turned left onto Warren, I thought about what Robert had said and realized he was right. Money is only a function of the system. One day when folks exhibit more concern for their troubled brothers and sisters than the money in their bank accounts, it will be the dawning of a very beautiful world indeed. The good thing is Robert and Sarah and most of our Miles neighbors are helping us create that world right now.

Change Vehicles Are Blossoming Everywhere
To make effective changes in our society we have to look to ourselves. Many of you may have read about the terrible 16-hour flight from LA to New York. David Martin, the CEO of the visual update social network kept the world posted in real time on the awful conditions onboard the airplane stuck on the tarmac for 7 hours. The upshot was the airlines apologized for the mess, refunded the fare and added a $100 gift certificate. Also, the CEO of the airlines called David Martin personally and discussed the deal before releasing it to the public.

Just the other day, I discovered a new organization and related web site founded by Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook. It is called and its mission is to help the world work “Together in Concert,” (The phrase is a direct translation of Jumo, taken from Yoruba, a West African language.)

To quote the intro copy on the web site: “There are no magic solutions to the challenges our world faces. But there are millions of people around the globe who work each day to improve the lives of others. Unfortunately, there are millions more who don’t know how to meaningfully help.

“Jumo brings together everyday individuals and organizations to speed the pace of global change. We connect people to the issues, organizations, and individuals relevant to them to foster lasting relationships and meaningful action.”

My thinking is that through technology we the people can be the people making the decisions on hunger, medical care and education. Together and almost instantanously we can come together, show our strength and influence others to get thing done or get out of the way. The imagery I see is not unlike a beautiful flock of birds flawlessly swooping this way and that way in formation through the sky. We, too as humans, have the technology to come together, protect each other and accomplish amazing things. Yes, we can!

POS (Point of Sale) is what most people know when they see signs or displays on the grocery shelves. However, since we are talking about One Can A Week, it’s more like POD or Point of Donation signage. Just this past week the folks at the Rincon Market put up shelf stickers encouraging their customers to think about the Community Food Bank when they shop. They covered cereal, spaghetti sauce, canned fruit and soy sauce. Next week they will add shelf signs to the canned tuna fish and peanut butter. Someday these POD stickers may be on the shelves of all the supermarkets in the country. It’s possible, you know. After all, we just got health care insurance for millions upon millions of families across American.

Need a Bigger Cabriolet
Even with the top down, the Cabriolet looked stuffed to the gills. The little car can take the weight but the volume is beginning to spill out over the sides and back. Have to keep the windows rolled up to make sure nothing falls out.

Our collection this week totaled 368 lbs. There was 162 lbs. of food—our weekly average–and 186 lbs. of produce in addition to 20 lbs. from the Axis Food Mart. On top of that, we donated $211.60 in cash and checks. A super fine week to say the least.

See you Sunday,


Monday, March 15, 2010

62nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

A Major Milestone
This month marks the first anniversary for Barbara Farragut and Lenny Cota-Robles as volunteers for One Can A Week food collection on 12th Street. I remember Barbara approached me and said she and Lenny have been watching me and decided to help. During that conversation, which was very light hearted at times, Barbara said she wanted to help because she was amazed at how committed the neighbors were to the weekly food donation drive and she wanted a front row seat to see just how long it will last. I burst out laughing and we’ve been friends ever since.

Lenny is a quiet man and someone you can really count on. He likes to work in the background and have someone such as Barbara out front keeping things going like the Circle K banana project. And smiling with delight he’s the one who told me about their anniversary date. I haven’t stopped thinking about how much they have helped me. One whole year…how lucky I am and we are to have such terrific neighbors.

People Care Everywhere
Last week you read about the tribulations of Dana Judice who lives in a small town in Louisiana. She just started her One Can A Week program and encountered lots of negativity on her first Sunday out with her whole family. Making matters worse, she grew up in that neighborhood.

My response to her was to answer her question: “How in the world did you get the guts to start this? in a typical guy fashion by telling her a story about adversity that proved to be a game changer for me. The approach I took was not unlike Darryl Worley’s recent country hit, Sounds Like Life To Me.

On Tuesday I got a beautifully written email from my friend Carol Reed in Wake Forest, NC. Her son Colin, with her support, collects One Can A Week for the VFW there and she wanted me to send her “words of encouragement” along to Dana. You may remember I wrote about Carol and her son some months back

I have to tell you from now on every time I feel a little discouraged myself, I will read Carol's email again. Her words will soon hang in a frame on the wall just above my computer. Right now I making do with a simple printed copy held in place with a piece of Scotch tape.


“Would you pass along a little note of encouragement to Dana for us? We were touched by her words of frustration. Even though we haven’t had the same experiences, we have had to learn about disappointment and rejection.
“When we first started, I thought we would never stop hearing, “how long will you be doing this?” Of all the things we had thought people would ask us, that was not the one we had imagined. Here we were, so excited and eager about our new project and people kept asking when we planned to stop!!

“But after a couple of months, when they saw that my son Colin, (this is really his project, I just helped him get the ball rolling) was not giving up. Through all kinds of weather he showed up every Sunday and I think they started to see that this was real, and meaningful, and not just a spur of the moment thing he was doing.

“I think our society is leery of scams so if they don’t want to give their emails right away no problem! We don’t have all our neighbors’ emails either and do most of our communication by large signs Colin places at the entrance to our subdivision each weekend. It reminds people he will be coming Sunday and also gives them a running total, so they can see it is adding up!

“Sometimes we get “eager beavers” I call them; people who give a grocery bag full at one time and then nothing more for weeks. Which is ok, but in today’s economy we try to stress the name of the program…one can(or box, bag etc) a week. I don’t want anyone to start feeling like it is a hardship for them, as that defeats the purpose.

“For the few who have turned their backs there are MANY more who have embraced the challenge, so when your neighbors begin to see your determination, you’ll get many on the band wagon. Just don’t let those few naysayers dim the light from the good the rest of you do. ANY amount you collect is more than the food bank would have had, so concentrate on that!

Let the kids weigh it and deliver it. Remember you are doing your part and that’s all you can control. The trickle just may turn out to be a stream!

“Best of luck!!

Smiles All Around
Brian Simpson (right) Director of Communications at the Association of Arizona Food Banks in Phoenix was in town to attend The 2010 Community Food Bank Hunger Walk on Saturday at Sam Lena Park. He stuck around to help me make my rounds on Sunday and also video taped his whole experience. He met lots of Miles neighbors and Maen Mdanat, (right) the owner of the Axis Food Mart. Early on Brian said that what he really likes about One Can A Week is the community building aspect.

A short time later we met up with Lenny and Barbara on 12th Street to pick up their collection. Barbara mentioned that she just had a conversation with a couple of her neighbors who wanted to put together a block party in April. One of the neighbors even volunteered his rock band for the occasion. I looked at Brian and assured him that this was not a setup. I was with you all of the time, I said, and didn’t use my cell phone once. He laughed and Barbara and Lenny smiled quizzically having no idea what we were talking about.

Brian is going to edit the video he took with Bill Roach’s terrific Sony HD camcorder—Bill’s my business partner, remember—and provide videos for YouTube, Facebook and our One Can A Week blog. Brian’s a busy man so volunteering his video editing skills like that is a very big deal. If you get a chance, pop him an email of thanks. I know he’d like that because he was born and raised here in Tucson.

Heavy on the Bananas
Last week we didn’t have any Circle K bananas. After Barbara checked back with her contacts, we collected 180 lbs. of produce this week, most of that being bananas. Our totals for this Sunday amounted to a whopping 374 lbs. of food (48 lbs. of that sum from the Axis Food Mart) and $12.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

61st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Notes from the Frontlines
Right after the Huffington Post article appeared I heard from Dana Judice who lives in a small town in Louisiana. She and her family were going to implement One Can A Week in her neighborhood but call it One Good A Week because her local food bank has a need for more than just food.

On Sunday afternoon I received an email describing her first foray into her neighborhood which incidentally, she grew up in.

“Hi, Peter, from One "Good" A Week in Louisiana!

“How in the world did you get the guts to start this? Today was our first collection day. We were all prepared with our papers, cards, name tags, and wagon. The six of us (4 kids!) started in the neighborhood where my husband and I were raised, where we've lived for thirty years.

“People thought we were crazy! I get the feeling that they were thinking "fine with me if you want to do something, but why not just buy it yourself?" We heard people hushing their dogs and then not answer the door. One neighbor took the opportunity to tell me that his wife (my childhood friend) had left him. (I gave up facebook for lent so I had no idea!)

“While people were generous, no one wanted to share their email addresses. I think they felt guilted into giving at the moment but will most likely not be home next week.

“Instead of that warm feeling of "good" when we were done, I had a stomach ache and a panic attack from the stress. Instead of showing my kids the pride that comes from volunteering, I felt like I'd just spent the last hour begging!

“Did you ever have weeks like this? I'm dang tempted to find another way to help, but I want to stick with it. I guess what I need is a little encouragement.”

Let the Sun Shine In
I had some real empathy pains for Dana Sunday. She and her family opened the door to change and were blown over by a very cool breeze. What made it worse was these were her long time growing up neighbors and friends. I though about what to write back to her and I finally focused on her first question: “How in the world did you get the guts to start this?” I’m hoping a story I told her about a painful incident in my life that changed me for the better will encourage Dana to look at this painful incident to uncover the lesson hidden there in her humiliation.

Hi Dana,

As you discovered, we have a problem in America and you and your family are the solution.

When I first presented One Can A Week to a group of 26 peers in a meeting where the intention was to come up with new approaches to community service, no one was moved. That's when I decided to do it myself. (Here's a link to that story: Mending the Broken Link in the Help Chain.)

I am so used to swimming against the tide that until now I have not considered those who have never even dipped a toe into the sea. I apologize for that.

I have dyslexia and—as an overachiever—22 consumer reference books that were published by major New York publishers. The nuns thought that humiliation in front of my class and a few smacks with a ruler accompanied by a torrent of tears would teach me to read. It did not but the incident showed me a new way to look at life. I was 8-years-old at the time and in the third grade.

The second day I was brought before the class I looked down at the same Dick and Jane paragraph that baffled my eyes and brain a day earlier and realized I had it memorized. I could have looked away from the page and read it anyway, the nun none the wiser.

The real lesson I learned that day was there are many ways to solve a problem and I am responsible to find one of those ways with the tools I have been given. That painful incident changed my life and opened a door to a treasure trove of creativity I had not know I had. My mother spent hours teaching me to read and I did the rest in college. I'm now a proofreader, too, because I see every letter in the words I read instead of graphic word symbols as most others do.

When dealing with human beings, understand that "no" fills their lexicon for change. Those of us who can instinctively see that the Earth revolves around the Sun, life is a bit more frustrating but a whole lot of fun when others see the better way...eventually.

Go out again and again and again. Your kids will learn the lesson of their lives. Their mother is a fighter and that's the best kind of mom to have. But take care of yourself. I tell my clients or anyone who will listen that they should do one thing a day and then take a nap. This means treat yourself to a piece of chocolate or a walk in the park or anything that makes you happy after you do something.

Hope this helps.

One Can A Week Wednesdays
Don’t forget to listen to the Bobby Rich Morning Mix, 94.9 Mix-FM, every Wednesday a 7:50 am to keep up with the exciting weekly episodes of One Can A Week.

Such a Pretty Picture
For the second week in a row a Rincon Market staffer, this time Noelle, handed me a whole bunch of money as I made the final arrangements on my display table. There was a puffy bank pouch and the impressive yet unassuming Styrofoam soup cup filled to the brim.

“Look, Noelle,” said excitedly, “Look how much we’ve collected. We asked our customers to help the Community Food Bank and they are so generous.”

Generous is right. This week we collected a total of $159.02, $52.04 was collected in just 3 days (photo above). When I wrote that figure on the back of the Styrofoam cup. Noelle picked it up and showed two of her co-workers. “Look how much we collected,” she said to each of them holding up the cup so they could easily see.

That ordinary soup cup with the magic marker “Food Bank” on its side is a very hard working piece of plastic. Not only does it seem uncommonly attractive to Rincon Market customers, it is drawing in young folks to volunteer their words to their customers. “Would you like to donate to the food bank,” they quietly say as they ring up a tasty breakfast or lunch plate.

Noelle loves that soup cup. When I offered to give her an official Community Food Bank donation canister, she replied, “Oh, no thanks. Our cup works just fine.”

There’s no mistaking it, the Rincon Market customers feel the enthusiasm of the staff for the Community Food Bank and the lack of sophistication of the canister probably reminds them of when they first encountered a kid’s lemonade stand in their neighborhood. They just can’t resist the joy they see in the faces of the staff every time they push a couple of bucks through the slit in the lid.

The customers may not be aware but that joy is also turning into commitment. “I want to volunteer more for the Food Bank,” Noelle offered, “just tell me what you want me to do.”

I might suggest she put another one of her magic Styrofoam cups at the grocery cash register if she hasn’t thought of that already.

Better at Bananas
Barbara Farragut, our 12th Street neighbor is the one who had the idea to collect rejected but quite edible bananas from several surrounding Circle K stores. She turned the task over to me to collect them on Mondays as I head to the Community Food Bank. Last week I had to report back to Barbara that there were no bananas available. Seems I’m not a motivating force when it comes to collecting bananas. “I’ll call,” she said as she hung up.

That was some call. This week on my Monday Circle K rounds I ended up with 90 lbs. of slightly speckled bananas that were distributed soon after I arrived at the Food Bank. Not that I want to abuse the power of a Barbara Call, but I am seriously considering who I would like her to call next.

Our collections this week totaled 259 lbs. of food (including 36 lbs. from the Axis Market and 108 lbs. of produce), 3 lbs. of pet food and $37.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, March 1, 2010

60th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

That’s Why There’s Chocolate … and Vanilla
Terry walked into the Rincon Market, book in hand, and stopped at my table. Generally he and I meet in Himmel Park up the road a piece walking our dogs. He has slow moving beagles and I have sniffing and tugging westies.

He introduced himself to Quinton the gentleman with whom I was speaking when he approached. After a few pleasantries, Terry headed for the coffee bar, the table in the back and a quiet read. On his way out, he stopped by again, dropped a rather large donation on the money plate and we talked.

The subject was his generosity and his lack of desire to act on it. However, if someone came to him he would gladly help with a donation or a can of food for that matter. I suggested that there are millions of Americans just like him. They are wonderful folks but their makeup is such that they don’t have any desire to get involved in things other than what appeals to them. It is perfectly understandable and basically has to do with likes and dislikes, not social insensitivity.

There are those—such as I—who love to help others and those folks—such as my friend Terry— who are glad someone is around to help them with their important, albeit, momentary acts of generosity. I like vanilla. I bet Terry’s favorite flavor is chocolate. Guess I’ll ask him the next time I see him with his beagle buddies.

Bobby Rich Steps Up
As we were getting ready to end our meeting, Bobby said he would begin talking about One Can A Week on Wednesdays about 10 minutes to 8. And that’s exactly what happened. Unfortunately, I set my alarm for 7:47 am and just about the time the fog lifted from my brain it was over. What I did hear was Greg mention that he liked the idea of one can a week and thought it should be introduced into supermarkets so once a week he could donate when he shops. Bobby finished up saying he was going to do a little more research into the project and get back to everyone next Wednesday. A serial One Can A Week, ironic as it may sound, but I think it will garner a lot of interest. Stay tuned.

Set your clock radio to 94.9 Mix FM and alarm for 7:40 am every Wednesday.

Taking Pictures of the Picture Taker
Teresa Filipowicz, a producer for KVOA News 4, sent an email to me requesting an interview for a story on One Can A Week. “This is part of our Making a Difference series,” she wrote, “in which we profile a southern Arizona person or a few people who are doing something to benefit the community, without expecting a monetary or other immediate reward.” Monday morning Jeff Westlake, videographer/reporter (photo on the left, center and right)—with a fancy new and tiny Panasonic digital camera he was testing for the very first time—met me at the Community Food Bank. “It is automatic everything,’ Jeff told me so I’m sure we’ll see what he shot on the 4 pm March 10th air date.

The folks at the Community Food Bank emptied my Cabriolet quickly so there was no food unloading footage for Jeff to take when he arrived on the scene. However, halfway through the shoot Nick Laboriola (photo on the right) showed up. He was delivering his One Can A Week donations so I got him involved. I could make suggestion at the spur of the moment because Jeff was very accommodating and made me feel quite comfortable with directing things a bit. Nick just started collecting in his neighborhood off east Harrison and made a great presentation. He talked about community spirit, community building and community safety. You would have thought he had been following me around for the past 6 months. I was very proud of him.

The one question Jeff persisted with was, “How did One Can A Week make me feel?” I hadn’t been asked that before so my first few attempts to answer him failed to hit the mark. Finally, he said, “and how do you feel about what One Can A Week does for you?” I got it. Since I am an idea person it feels great…no incredible to think of something that solves a problem and really helps people. That’s why I’m sticking and staying, One Can A Week works and can end hunger here in Tucson.

In the Eye of the Beholder
Joella called to me from behind the coffee counter. I had just set up my table for my 3 and one half hour Saturday stint at the Rincon Market. She said there was a food bank donation cup at the food counter cash register and she would get it for me.

The Styrofoam soup cup she handed me was heavy and stuffed with dollar bills and lots of change. My first thought was that this “thing” was so ugly it had to be replaced. The lid with a slit in it needed repair from all of the bills being forced through the opening, not to mention the basic magic marker Food Bank lettering on the side of the cup.

After counting the contents which amounted to $56.37, I came to the realization that those two words, FOOD BANK, needed no introduction and could be scribbled on any collection devise with similar results. So fancy, upscale containers are irrelevant. People are hungry and people, who are not, don’t have to be “sold” to help.

Another Soaking
Just before 11:30 am the rain let up and I hurried. Most of the food cans and boxes were dry and protected by the plastic bags they were in as they hung on gates and door knobs waiting for me to pick them up. This downpour was even stronger than last week’s and still everyone was ready.

On the way home following my last pick up I ran into Kym Fuhrig making the last of her rounds on 13th Street. She tried to wait out the rain but it got too late so in a blue hooded slicker and multicolored polka dot rubber boots she schlepped her wagon through the rain drops. When I pulled up she was smiling and walking through puddles. “Even in the rain, this is fun,” she said.

We collected 260 lbs. this week which included 94 lbs. of oranges, lemons and grapefruit and 36 lbs. of food from the Axis Food Mart. Also we had a $17 cash donation.

See you Sunday,