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,


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