Monday, July 26, 2010

81st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Well, it took 81 weeks but we reached a point in our One Can A Week trek through time and the Mile Neighborhood where nothing exciting, interesting or thoughtful happened. So I opted for the next best thing.

Cat got your tongue?
Sunday was very quiet. It wasn’t until my 15th or so pickup when I saw Kelly watering her plants. I was across the street paying attention to what she was saying as I reached the neighbor’s porch and looked down. In the usual spot where I often find a huge box of noodles, I saw two cans situated in the middle of a brand new cat litter box. And it had a scooper. What do I do now? I thought. Is this a mistake? Do I take the cans and leave the box? Do I take everything? It’s new so it’s no mistake. I know, I’ll leave a note on the back of the Thank You card. “If I took this by mistake just call me and I’ll bring it back.” Lots of hungry folks would appreciate a new litter box for their kitten. This is a nice gesture. Sure hope is was a gesture.

The guys at the food bank on Monday didn’t even blink when I handed them the litter box. Their reaction was so ordinary. And I did not get a phone call so guess it wasn’t a mistake or a big deal except to me.

We collected a total of 176 lbs. of food including 50 lbs. of produce. In addition, there were 6 lbs. of non-food items; e.g., the cat litter box above. The money we donated amounted to $54.00…two checks for $30, $14 in cash and $10 from the Axis Food Mart.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

80th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Rick Stertz Gets It!
Most times Rick breezes through the Rincon Market a couple of Saturdays a month. He picks up his coffee and waves at me behind the One Can A Week table on his way out through the sliding doors. This is okay with me because Rick is the one who instigated these Saturday morning adventures by introducing me to Ron Abbott the Rincon Market proprietor.

This past Saturday was different. Rick stopped in front of the table, coffee in hand and talked about how he and a group of business people, 250 or so he said, are taking a new approach to helping Tucson at large…large being the operative word. You could tell that a lot of strategic thought is going into Rick’s plan because he had exact definitions of the process, not unlike “corporate speak” companies use to get everyone on the same page.

As he spoke about such things as “material and monetary resources” my thought was, “This is impressive, he’s written a bunch of things down.” At a respectful juncture I asked about “mental resources” because I am most interested in feeding the hungry kids here in Tucson who make up 25% of the school age population. This endeavor will take boots on the ground just as I am doing now.

Right away Rick jumped back into the conversation. He’s an excitable guy and I like that about him. “Mental resources? Of course, we have lots of retired engineers from Raytheon whom we can vet, fingerprint and place in classrooms all over the city to help math teachers or even tutor students.”

“They have to be just like One Can A Week,” I said mirroring his energy, “they are only there to help, not change the way things are done. The teachers and the school system remain the boss.”

My friend Ed Altamirano is more poetic in his assessment of how people should help each other. He says, “we don’t need modification, we need intensification.”

So I asked Rick, “Is the plan just to help?”

It is the plan, he assured me.

With each passing day we are getting smaller government—whether we like it or not—because we are running out of funds. This means the citizens have to step up to fill the gap for teachers, police officers, firefighters and other necessary community services. We just cannot let ourselves down …nor those in need.

From Other Lands
While contemplating what I wanted to write about this week, I happened to catch a segment of Faces of America with Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. Mr. Gates told people like Meryl Streep, Stephen Colbert, Queen Noor of Jordan and Kristi Yamaguchi about their ancestors’ struggles in coming to America. The actor, the comedian, the queen and the skater—although all very different people—sat there transfixed in disbelief while they studied the photos Mr. Gates’ researchers found of their great grandparents and grandparents as children. It was very difficult for them to absorb the hardships that their families endured just to get to America. The disconnect of a Starbucks on every corner today to families splitting up just to survive never to see each other again brought tears to their eyes…and mine, too.

Our recent ancestors were tough well beyond anything we can imagine and they did it just to give their yet to be born children and grandchildren a better life. The least we can do is honor their heroic motivations and become motivated ourselves to make it better for our children and grandchildren.. Rick Stertz gets this and is stepping up his leadership role in the community. But he could use your help. Think about it for a bit and then send Rick an email at I know he will gladly give you something to do that will make your ancestors proud.

More About Rick Stertz
Here, as Chairman of the Sam Hughes Community Action Committee, Rick (right)is shown addressing the folks at a Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association meeting in late October, 2009. A prominent real estate developer in Arizona and Colorado, Rick is also the Secretary for the esteemed Tucson Police Foundation which hosts the annual Cops and Rodders Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show. He’s a busy guy but never too busy to reach out to others.

The Squash is Getting Bigger
Last week, along with all of the food and produce, we had three normal size squash donated. This week the squash is huge. It reminded me of an Olsen & Johnson skit from “way back” in the day, like vaudeville, that my dad told me about. He said they would interrupt the show carrying a tree and paging a Mrs. Smith. Each time they interrupted the show the tree they were carrying was bigger. At the end of the show as the audience left, they were in the lobby hanging from a large tree shouting out Mrs. Smith’s name.

Maybe that is what is happening to our squash…soon it will fill the whole basket by itself. Wouldn’t that be great…and funny.

We collected a total of 202 lbs. of food including 48 lbs. of produce. In addition there were 6 lbs. of non-food items like hand soap, a Loffah and several winter scarves. (Those made me hot just looking at them.) The money we donated amounted to $66.00…a check for $25, $16 in cash and $25 from the Axis Food Mart.

See you Sunday,


Monday, July 12, 2010

79th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The Beginning of the Beginning
At 11:50 am Saturday I was carrying my One Can A Week display table back to the Cabriolet when I noticed a couple in front of the flower shop next door to the Rincon Market walking about 15 feet apart heading for the market’s front entrance. The gentleman was spry but his wife was favoring her right foot and waking in some pain. When I returned to pick up my sign and display box, the gentleman was waiting for me.

“Remember, me? he queried, “I am Anita Fonte’s husband. You were at my house when you first talked about One Can A Week.”

I didn’t remember him but I did have a very clear picture of his home and the first and only meeting I attended for the Community Corps 4 Change. It was one of those organizations formed right after the 2008 election to keep the momentum going on President Obama’s community service initiative. The invitation they sent to me told me to bring an idea, which I did. A bunch of other folks did too, but their ideas needed funding. At the time I was amused that they did not see the nasty recession heading our way. (Read the full story here:

Mr. Fonte walked me to the salad bar in the back of the market and I said hello to his wife Anita. I remembered her but cut the conversation short because I saw the pain in her face from her sore ankle. I excused myself and left for home.

In thinking about what to write about this week my brain kept returning to that fateful meeting more than 79 weeks ago. Not much happened to Mr. and Mrs. Fonte but my life changed completely. And it changed for thousands of folks on the receiving end of One Can A Week, too.

I did a quick tally of everything we have done since we began collecting food for the Community Food Bank 79 weeks ago. Just think of this:

- 16,950 lbs. of food collected

- That generated 13,039 meals at 1.3 lbs. per meal.

- We fed 4,346 folks 3 meals in one day

- On top of that we collected $2,970.

Not sure how much food that is but the Community Food Bank suggests the amount of food and services it can provide for our cash donation is equal to $26,802 or $9 for every $1 donated.

I’m not fond of going back in time. Class reunions and similar get togethers make me uncomfortable because I am always in the present, planning for my next move into the present. But meeting Mr. and Mrs. Fonte again was a good thing because it reminded me how far we have come and how far we can go.


Once A Week Wednesdays
Bobby Rich
94.9 MIXfm
7:50 AM

Don’t miss Wednesdays with Bobby Rich at 7:50 am. He talks about One Can A Week and other Community Service programs.

Escapee Potatoes
Generally one finds potatoes all trussed up in a secure bag but this week we got a quartet of spuds along with a can or two from one of our neighbors. As I said in an earlier week, part of the fun of collecting One Can A Week is the surprise we often find waiting for us on the doorstep. We collected 122 lbs. of food including 4 lbs. from the Axis Food Mart, 1 lb. of dog food, 1 lb. of produce and $21 in cash.
See you Sunday,


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

78th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

What Does This Have to Do with Feeding Hungry Folks?
Confrontation is always the last thing on my list. So over the past 6 months or so I sat quietly while web and TV pundits who are supposed to be for President Obama started questioning his project management style all the while as things were being done. This puzzled me. Don’t they know what he is dealing with? Don’t they know how much Americans love change? The folks in special interest groups, most corporations and congress are people who have almost as much money as God and want to change absolutely nothing.

It’s no fun talking back to a TV so I kept my thoughts to myself even though I wanted to speak up for the man who motivated me to help my neighbors and thousands of hungry folks in Tucson. I owe President Obama a debt of gratitude for explaining how important it is to make community service a significant part of one’s life.

Then I opened my Tucson Weekly Friday night and read the opinion piece by Tom Danehy: “Many Democrats agree: So far, Obama has been a disappointment.” Well, that set me off especially when I noticed Tom’s email address right next to his name. A real outlet where my words can be heard. Maybe not considered but at least heard.

Here’s what I wrote…

Hi Tom,

Your frustration with President Obama’s project management style is palpable. Mine not so much. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind if I suggested another approach or better yet, another perspective.

It is quite ironic that millions of large and small dictatorships financially support the largest, most successful democracy in the world. Each has a President, CEO, Chairman or Chairwoman and a handpicked board to make all of the decisions. Even those millions of sole proprietorships act as dictators, too. No wonder China came back into the world and loves doing business.

They figured out that it is no different then doing their government.
Now most of those dictatorships are populated with Money Folks who spend every waking moment thinking of ways to maximize their profits by stifling or eliminating the democracy’s rule of law.

Fortunately, up against this incredible force of evil is one man who is trying to make most evil doers—and their workers, innocent or not—do something they do not want to do…change.

To date he has passed a health care bill that no president could get passed for the past 100 plus years and it probably is as weak as the Social Security bill was in the beginning. But look at SS now!

Offered a $20 billion escrow deal for the “little people” BP could not refuse.

Placed two brilliant women on the Supreme Court, the same court that just made dictatorships people.

Appointed a Democrat General to get us out of Afghanistan honorably. If the general does, hewill be a great potential presidential candidate.

President Obama did all of this in 18 months without making a grandstand scene or taking a strong position. Money Folks are beside themselves because they are fighting The Shadow…someone who really knows how to combat the “evil that lurks in the hearts of men.”

I support President Obama 100% because I know the nearly impossible challenge he faces. I am learning so much from him by just watching and thinking. I also send support emails when asked now and again.

Perhaps if we all stopped trying to second-guess one of the smartest human beings on the planet and support him by quietly applauding from the sidelines, things would go much better for us and for him, too.

Best regards,

What Next?
I haven’t heard anything back from Tom but that does not matter. What is important is that I speak out—as we all should—when our friends are chided because they are different and do things differently. Often times it is understanding and embracing that difference that is the real change we need.

A Concern So Old Even Thomas Jefferson Warned Us Before He Died.
Thomas Jefferson Feared an Aristocracy of Corporations
By John Nichols

“Jefferson might not have wanted a lot of government, but he wanted enough government to assert the sovereignty of citizens over corporations. To his view, nothing was more important to the health of the republic.”

The More CEOs Make, The Worse They Treat Workers, Says A New Study
By Nathaniel Cahners Hindman

“…professors from Harvard, Rice and the University of Utah argue that rising income inequality between executives and ordinary workers results in "power asymmetries in the workplace such that top executives come to view lower level workers as dispensable objects not worthy of human dignity."

Are Profits Hurting Capitalism?
By Yves Smith and Rob Parenteau

“Rather than incur such expenses (research, product design, prototype development, legal expenses associated with patents, lining up contractors and so on…), companies increasingly prefer to pay their executives exorbitant bonuses, or issue special dividends to shareholders, or engage in purely financial speculation. But this means they also short-circuit a major driver of economic growth.”

Summer Gardens
A neighbor on 13th Street decided to share some of the “vegetables of her labors” this week. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of the fresh produce that everybody needs. Also, to keep things in balance, we got several cream-filled oatmeal cookies. Maybe that’s not real balance but they sure looked good. We collected 170 lbs. of food including 14 lbs. from the Axis Food Mart, 1 lb. of dog food, 1 lb. of produce and $39 in cash.

See you Sunday,