Monday, January 25, 2010

55th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

They Are As Good As We Think
How an individual—or an organization for that matter—faces and fixes errors is probably the best indicator of that individual’s true character. On the other hand, if the sailing is always smooth in a relationship one can never predict outcomes when storm winds begin to blow.

Back on November 29, George on 12th Street gave me a Community Food Bank credit card donation form for $100 to deliver on Monday. Howard and Keith my friends in the warehouse knew what I had but they had not processed one recently. After some back and forth, they did what they always do with cash and check donations, they placed it in an envelope and deposited it in the drop safe near the receptionist. That was that…or so I thought.

On the 14th of January George saw me on the street and stopped me. He said he had not received a receipt from the Community Food Bank for his donation I dropped off in November. Later that day I sent an email to Pauline Hechler, VP of Development and she responded to George in a matter of minutes and shortly there after to me.

“We’re running about two weeks behind on receipts, Peter. This time of year is tough, as some days we have had as many as 1,000 gifts. I have left George a message thanking him for his patience.

P.S. During normal times, we have receipts and thank-yous out within 48 hours.”

Perfect customer service, I thought and got on with things. Last Thursday I received a call from the Community Food Bank accounting office and was told they could not find the donation form and they looked everywhere. I said to the young lady that I would talk to Howard and Keith on Monday and try to get some answers. And of course on Sunday I ran into George again. He’s a true gentleman and quiet business like which means non answers don’t sit well with him. And since I had no answers, I wasn’t too comfortable talking about the lost donation form. I told George I would discuss the situation with the folks in the warehouse on Monday and try to come up with a resolution.

Right after the weigh-in I asked both Howard and Keith if they remembered the donation form. And they did, right down to the last detail. Howard had talked to accounting last week and told Keith to call right now to get a definitive answer. Keith did. They could not locate the donation form and surmised that it was discarded and shredded along with other financial materials. They always shred their documents and papers. So the donation form is gone forever.

I was really impressed with how Howard and Keith took command of the situation and remembered the entire episode. They reminded me of the corporate executive who was asked why he never took notes in meetings. He replied, “I don’t have to, I never lie.”

On the way home from teaching a computer lesson I stopped by George’s home and relayed my conversations with the Community Food Bank staff. I said there is no way to make him feel better because the donation form was lost. I suggested he could call his credit card company and get a new number. He said he wasn’t bothered anymore and then asked me to wait. When he returned he handed me a check for $100 made out to the Community Food Bank.

As we parted I said I would personally walk the check through and get him his donation receipt. This made him smile. I’m glad it did but I am serious about the walking thing and have an appointment to meet Pauline at 9 am.

Like most people in the world, I’m not fond of confrontations but I’m glad I had this one. I’m really fond of the Community Food Bank and all of the folks who work there. They make me proud to know them mostly because they really do have character.

Saturdays, Rain or Shine
John Abbott, son of Ron and Kelly Abbott, the owners of the Rincon Market, called me last Wednesday to say they were going to go with One Can A Week. That meant Saturday morning I could set up our One Can A Week display table at 9 am right by the door on the self serve restaurant side and wait for folks to stop by and chat. Shortly after 9, Mavis Collins asked for some literature which she took to her table. Then Richard, her husband walked over to talk to me about a virus his computer had because he learned I was a computer instructor in the article Mavis gave him to read. It was such a nasty virus I couldn’t help him much except to suggest he talk to the folks at SWS on Speedway.

While Richard and I spoke, a lady on her way out of the door asked me if I took change as a donation and when I said yes, she immediately turned her purse over and dumped lots of coins in the green box on the table. Later I counted it…$4.01, mostly in quarters and dimes.

Mavis came back and told me a story about how her dad collected donations for his church and he always “primed the pump” so to speak and placed a few of his bills and coins in the collection basket. She suggested I show some cans on the table which I did right away.

Since I noticed cash donations were out stripping the food donations, I also put out a plate displaying a handful of that lady’s change and a dollar bill. The very next donation was a $20 bill.

After his breakfast, another gentleman walked over and said he had a few cans in the car and would go get them. He came right back but I did not have the heart to tell him that he was supposed to buy his donated cans in the grocery store on the other side of the restaurant. I guess it’ll just take a little time for folks to make the connection.

For lunch I ordered a very tasty turkey sandwich and sat at a table about 15 feet from our display. As I looked around at the other diners in the restaurant I realized that this was going to be a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday collecting food and donations for the Community Food Bank. The best part is I never have to be concerned about the weather.

On this first Saturday we collected $33.01 in cash, two Campbell soup cans and one good suggestion.

A 576 Pound Team Effort
With the help of the Axis Food Mart on Broadway and Barbara’s
70 lbs. of bananas,
the Miles Neighborhood topped 576 lbs. in food donations this week which is our best so far. It is 62.5 lbs. ahead of our past record of 531.5 lbs. set on November 16, 2009. We also handed in $11 in cash. Isn’t it great…the longer we stay in business the more impact we have.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

54th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

 Hi Folks,

Swapping Stories
Saturday afternoon I decided to do some cleanup in the shared yard between my guest house and the “big house” as I call it. The moment I opened my gate to the yard, the back door to the house opened and out popped Terry my friend and landlord. He and Beth, his wife, had the same idea. Since the previous renters had vacated a few weeks earlier they decided to stop by to spiff up the house a bit before they showed it to a potential renter later in the day.

If you remember, Beth also collects for One Can A Week in her neighborhood out on Tanque Verde. In between raking Palo Verde needles and picking up the feral cat poop — not too delicate but I still love those little critters whom I feed and fix—I told Beth about the terrific news I just got from Susie Carrier. She collects every other week in her Ironwood Ridge neighborhood. To date they have donated 628 lbs of food and $130.

Beth, who is always considerate about keeping the conversation going said her neighbor Jorge, a doctor really admires the Community Food Bank. He mentioned a time when he was caring for striking miners and they were running out of food. The food bank came in and saved the day. He would never forget what they did and gave Beth $100 in addition to his weekly food donation.

Terry obviously was a little taken aback by the low key tenor of her story. “Do you know who Jorge is?” he asked us incredulously. He’s the folk hero doctor Jorge O’Leary, who along with his wife, helped the miners through that terrible Morenci strike in the early 1980s.” Both Beth and I were surprised by Terry’s energetic response probably because we had no knowledge of the event.

Don’t You Just Love the Internet
The next day Beth sent me a link to the story on her neighbor Dr. Jorge O’Leary and his wife Anna Marie O’Leary. The Abstract in the Arizona State University archive is rather matter of fact about the difference Dr. and Mrs. O’Leary made.

“The ANNA AND JORGE O'LEARY PAPERS consist of correspondence, printed matter, and miscellaneous items relating to the Phelps Dodge copper strike of 1983-1986. The collection extends from 1981-1987.”

Told you it was a bit understated. You have to read the full “Historical Note” to see why Terry was so impressed with what Dr. O’Leary and his wife did for those desperate miners.

Here is the link to the story which also involved prominent folks like Cesar Chavez, Bruce Springsteen and Edward Asner.

My take away from this powerful saga is that doing important and selfless things and being very humble about it—like Dr. and Mrs. O’Leary and too, the Community Food Bank—is what makes life on this planet so worthwhile.

Going Bananas
Upon returning from church on Sunday, Barbara Farragut on 12th Street stopped by the Circle K to pick up a few things when she noticed the store manager preparing to pitch a whole bunch of bananas. He said that every Sunday he tosses the leftover bananas in preparation for Monday’s delivery of fresh bananas.

Barbara saw that one box looked perfectly good (see photo) while the other three contained bananas any self respecting chimpanzee would have refused. However, always the planner, Barbara asked if she could have them all and helped the manager put four 50 lb. boxes in her car. She also said she would be back next week to collect the bananas he had not sold during the week. Because of Barbara’s keen eye—she calls it nosiness—we collected 220 lbs. of food in addition to $28 in cash this week.

SunnyD Donation Deal
Maen at the Axis Food Mart told me last week that he got a terrific deal on 100 cases of SunnyD fruit drink. So good in fact he will keep 50 cases for himself and donate the rest to the Community Food Bank. There are 25 cases in the two shopping carts in addition to the food his customers donated last week for a grand total of 370 lbs. With such generosity I think I’m gong to need a bigger car.

Our Miles Neighborhood total this week amounted to 590 lbs. of food plus the $28. Wonderful week!

See you Sunday,


Monday, January 11, 2010

53rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

The Look of One Can A Week
Howard and I just finished weighing in this week’s food donations and he was walking me to my car down the ramp that runs along side the loading docks at the Community Food Bank. I usually park 50 or 60 feet from the bottom of the ramp because that’s where the sun shines. I want to shoot the shopping cart in the sun to get brighter photos.

In the shadows at the base of the ramp there was a gentleman nearly finished unloading his donations from his trunk into the cart. I was taken with the look of that cart. There were all kinds of plastic bags filled with all kinds of different foods leaning on each other a bit helter skelter, just like the carts I fill up every Monday.

I asked the gentleman who introduced himself as Bruce Rumpf where he got the food. He said he collects the donations every other week at his RV park on Ajo Way. I suggested he do it every week and handed him my One Can A Week business card. As soon as he saw One Can A Week he explained he read an article in the newspaper and decided to start the program in his neighborhood but collects every other week instead of every week. I knew that shopping cart looked like One Can A Week donations. Can’t fool me.

Bruce also stated that the folks in the Desert Pueblo RV Park meet weekly and drop off their donations at the recreation center. He said they call it “Sunday Curbside.” He does not go around collecting but consistently gets a large amount of food. When folks have a centralized weekly activity near their homes they can remember to bring along food to donate. Fascinating!

Another thing Bruce does is display a huge thermometer with the biweekly tallies. This is a great idea and soon there will be one on display here in our neighborhood.

Persistence, Great Communication and Rapport
These are some of Dot Kret’s favorite words. Remember, Dot is the owner of DKA on the corner of Broadway and Vine and her whole company donates to our neighborhood One Can A Week program.

Late last Friday Jorge Ruiz, a DKA staffer and Highland Street neighbor dropped off a card at my home. Inside was a touching note talking about how Dot appreciated my efforts with One Can A Week. In a surprising demonstration of that appreciation, she also included a $200 check for the Community Food Bank.

The truth is I am just doing what I normally do … helping folks when I see a need … but Dot sure knows how to keep me fired up.

Surrounded By One Can A Week
Maen Mdanat, the new owner of the Axis Food Mart on Broadway and Cherry wants to make sure everyone can see that he is very involved with One Can A Week. He even has a little sign on the cash register's digital sales display which no customer can miss. In addition, he talks to every one of his vendor reps about helping the Community Food Bank. Maen (pronounced mon as in monastery) is quite a charmer so no one can resist his request…especially the kids who drop their small change in the coin canister right there in front.

Speaking of Vendors
Lots of Maen’s customers dropped food in the large Community Food Bank box next to the front door. Vendors, on the other hand, just stacked up their donations outside the box. This week the Axis Food Mart collected 112 lbs. of food which will be added to our Miles Neighborhood total.

Off to A Great Start
This is our first week in 2010 and the tallies were terrific. We collected 264 lbs. of food. That’s our 152 lbs. plus the Axis 112 lbs. On top of that we had $219 in donations … DKA’s $200 check and $19 in cash. Can’t wait to see what surprises are going to pop up next week.

See you Sunday,


Monday, January 4, 2010

52nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Happy Anniversary everyone!
The one consistent comment I got Sunday when handing out our First Year Anniversary Quarterly Report summary was “It sure doesn’t seem like a year since we started One Can A Week.” I agree and I’m the guy who carried those 9,000 lbs. of food to the Community Food Bank. Guess we can attribute it to the fact that time flies when you are having fun. Also I think doing something very important every Sunday also contributes to the imagined contraction of time.

In our second year I plan on doing even more because it just doesn’t seem like more work. Then again people are beginning to step up. Just today, Pauline Hechler, Director of Development at the Community Food Bank sent me a piece of good news. “Peter: I’m copying you, as this is a group that wants to start the program (One Can A Week) in Green Valley for our branch bank there.”

Time appears to be on our side in a number of ways which is a very good thing. A year doesn’t seem like a year yet others see our longevity and success and decide to get involved. I believe we have created a paradigm shift or change in a fundamental way we think about helping the hungry. It’s everybody’s problem and everybody can help a little each week.

Just the Facts
The great thing about the numbers in the annual summary is they represent us, The Miles Neighborhood feeding hungry folks here in Tucson one whole year…lots of folks…more than 2,300 folks and we fed them three meals in one day. Then there’s the money. Our $1,953.38 donation over the year translated into $17,580.42 (1$ = $9) in Community Food Bank food and services. Hope you are proud of yourselves because you should be and I’m very proud of you, too.

Meeting with Bobby Rich at Mix-FM and Other News
Later this week I plan on calling Bobby Rich to talk about One Can A Week and how we can help each other do more for the needy here in Tucson. Also, I have to get back to the Ron Abbott at the Rincon Market to see what our next steps will be.

Ward 5 Offices on South Park
Council Member Richard G. Fembres, our neighbor and staunch supporter of the Community Food Bank, just invited Ward 5 neighbors and businesses to a Ward 5 Dialogue Event on Thursday, January 14th from 5 pm. to 7 pm. The offices (pictured above) are located at 4300 S. Park Avenue just south of E. Ajo Way. It’s a great way to meet your neighbors, get a little more involved in our neighborhood happenings or just check out the fine looking layout. Mark your calendars and hope to see you there.

One Can A Week Now Means Neighborhood
Businesses, Too

We collected 175 lbs. of food (in the basket on the left) and $13 in cash but add that to the 43 lbs. the Axis Food Mart collected and we have a grand total of 218 lbs. Also included in our poundage this week is a donation from a unit at St. Mary’s where a neighbor on Miles works and the staff at DKA. If making a weekly delivery directly to the Community Food Bank helps us gather more food, spread the word. And think about it. Wouldn’t it be great if we got so much food from here and there that we had to make two trips to the food bank on Mondays?

See you Sunday,