Tuesday, May 31, 2011

125th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

When Ordinary is Not Ordinary

Fruits and Veggies
by local artist Diana Madaras
Three weeks ago Kristen Hershberger, the Volunteer Manager at the Community Food Bank tricked me a little. She said the breakfast meeting on Wednesday, May 25th was for volunteers so I went prepared to talk about One Can A Week in hopes of convincing a few CFB volunteers to consider starting our program in their neighborhood. What she really meant was, the breakfast was their normal monthly CFB staff meeting and they were going to acknowledge a volunteer … me. I found this out moments after I took my seat next to Pauline Hechler, the Vice President of Development.

I got a hint something else was in the air when Pauline called me about 7:15 that morning and said she was going to be a bit late and that I should save her a seat next to me at the table. I agreed but at that moment I was more concerned about the guy who was going to cover my shift at the Axis Food Market.

He was already 15 minutes late and we had planned this morning a couple of weeks in advance and then confirmed just the night before. I got more anxious when Pauline hung up because I wondered what does she have to do with volunteers?

At 7:25, after clearing it with Maen, the owner, I closed Axis and hurriedly drove to the Food Bank five minutes away. Now I was doubly anxious because I woke Maen up and then closed his store down. Can’t wait to hear that guy’s excuse for why he was a half hour late. Nope, not even going to ask.

Turns out I was third on the agenda, right after Bill Carnegie, the CEO lead the “Drawing for Valuable Prizes” and Robert Rosalva Fuentes was introduced as a new employee. Those two activities were given 2.5 minutes each.

At 7:35, Pauline stood up and spoke for a few minutes. She described the work I had done in the Miles Neighborhood and closed thanking me for getting them involved in a program that is garnering some national attention.

Jacob Coldsmith, the Food Drives manager, spoke next about how pleasant it has been working together over the past two and one-half years. I smiled and nodded my head in agreement.

Then Pauline presented me with a beautiful print by Diana Madaras, a renowned Tucson artist. That was some surprise and I thanked everyone.

Pauline leaned over and whispered that I could skip out on the rest of the meeting if I like, but I wanted to stay … out of respect and I was curious about their working community. The next 40 minutes of the staff meeting was devoted to medical insurance and the open enrollment period. It was just like the meetings we had at Merrill Lynch. Plan A. Plan B. And lots of question on how to protect themselves best without giving up the ranch.

On Sunday, the mood of my collection was quiet and purposeful. At the end of my route, while loading up my trunk for the Tuesday run to the Food Bank, my mind filled up with thoughts of how ordinary the task of feeding the hungry had become for my neighbors and me. I also saw this same resolve and commitment exhibited by the folks at the Food Bank on Wednesday.

Cans on the porch each and every Sunday, me driving around collecting those donations and serious talk about health insurance, yet we all are making a concerted and consistent effort to end hunger in Tucson.

On the border of the cardboard frame of the Diana Madaras print is the Community Food Bank logo and their motto, “Working together towards a hunger-free Pima County.” What the Food Bank staff and my neighbors and I do is quite ordinary. We think about and we feed the hungry as a part of our daily lives. Things would be a lot better for all of us if we just had a little more ordinary in the world.

Never Too Late
A recent new neighbor who had not donated before but who knew about One Can A Week invited me into his home and gave me most of the can goods in his food cabinets. He was moving to Alaska and wanted me to take what he could not use to the food bank.

I was sorry to see him go but glad he had a chance to cover his time in the Miles neighborhood with a huge donation.

We collected a total of 206 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $90.51 … a $75.00 check from the Axis Food Mart and $15.51 in cash.

See you Sunday.


Monday, May 23, 2011

124th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

A Wallflower at the Sunflower

Last Wednesday when I picked up the Sunflower Market donation of two cans and talked to Rosemary about the situation, she said the Community Food Bank box has to be positioned up against the wall and out of the way of traffic. And that it is.

Unfortunately, the customers coming out of any of the seven checkout lanes seldom catch sight of the white box even with the cute Thank You Kids beckoning. The photo below shows the visual dilemma. Without the obvious red arrow marking the spot, it would be difficult to locate the box in the picture.

I brought this fact up and Rosemary, not one to dwell much on the negative said, “Well, can you make the box hot pink or something?”

In the next two days I picked up a new donation box at the Community Food Bank, bought some “very” pink wrapping paper at Wal-Mart and by Saturday afternoon I had the box a sight to behold. Even without the red arrow, that bright spot under the window and up against the wall is easy to see.

Before and After

Even though the Community Food Bank box is still a wallflower at the Sunflower Market, its new look will surely attract a lot of attention and a lot of donations for that matter.

This is what the Sunflower customers see and experience when they step up to help the needy in Tucson.

Back in the Cabriolet Again
The best part about this Sunday for me was having my Cabriolet helping me collect food again. It’s just more fun driving that little bug with a big red umbrella. There’s a new starter motor, a new freeze plug and several new vacuum system thingies I put in myself.

It starts right up now and as a reward for such good behavior, I let it sun itself in the mornings at the Axis Food Mart Monday – Thursday. Turns out it is a great conversation piece, too.

We collected a total of 172 lbs. of food, including 14 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $30.50 … a $25.00 check and $5.50 in cash.

See you Sunday.


Monday, May 16, 2011

123rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
‘Thank You’ Kids at the
Sunflower Farmers Market

Four adorable 3D kids say “Thank You”
to every person dropping off a donation for
the Community Food Bank.
(Click on photo to view larger.)
A week after the manager at the Speedway Sunflower Market eliminated the One Can A Week reminder stickers on the credit card checkout stands, the donations to the Community Food Bank dropped in half. This week they were lower still coming in at 14 lbs. Both Rosemary, the Events Coordinator and I were disappointed but Rosemary suggested I create more energy around the donation box itself.

The first thing I thought of was a group of kids in Community Food Bank Tee shirts standing around the donation box chatting up the customers as they walked by. When practicality kicked in about two seconds later, I had them standing on sticks in 3D cutouts.

While I was putting the display together today, a woman walked by and said, “Oh, darn, I forgot my donation. I’ll take it to the office tomorrow.”

So maybe the kids will work as well as the credit card machine stand reminder. Rosemary and I are hoping this will be the case. Of course, the kids are not as in-your-face as that One Can A Week sticker, but they sure drive home the need if you just happen to look them in the eye.

USPS Food Drive Missed Us This Year
Jacob Coldsmith at the Community Food Bank said that budgetary constraints limited the number of blue bags available this year and of course, the Post Office is facing its own financial crisis. However, Jacob said overall donations were down just a little bit this year. This is good news.

We have some good news ourselves. We collected a total of 164 lbs. of food including 8 lbs. from the Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $125.50, $15.50 in cash and $110.00 in checks.

See you Sunday,


Monday, May 9, 2011

122nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Fifty Years in the Making

Ellen Schiffman - 1960 Clayton
High School yearbook photo
Only two people have talked to me about starting their own One Can A Week program in their neighborhood during my Saturday morning stint at the Rincon Market. The latest was Patricia. Actually, she was speaking for Maria, her 15-year-old daughter, who wants to go to Harvard Medical School in a couple of years and she thinks it is important to get involved in community service now. With a community organizer president who is also a Harvard grad, making a mark in the White House these days, more and more schools are looking at volunteer service in addition to grades to determine acceptance. 

A few days later Maria sent me an invitation to join her at 11 am, May 7th at the Catalina Vista neighborhood’s annual picnic. Part of the festivities involved donations for the Community Food Bank.

Punctuality is a good thing except for picnics. I got there at 11 am as directed but only Wendell the grill man was there scraping off some remnants from his last social gathering. I looked around as a few more neighbors arrived and noticed many of these folks where my heavily-wrinkled contemporaries. So it wasn’t long before “back in the day.” conversations sprang up. Something about the Johnny Carson, Dean Martin and The Tonight Show description made me think about generation gaps … and I’m in that generation.

Merle Stolar - 1960 Clayton
High School yearbook photo
 Instead of listening in silence and shaking my head in dismay, I walked to a shady bench under a large treesome 50 yards away. The weather was magnificent, a slight breeze and very little humidity. It was a perfect Tucson day and like Ferdinand the Bull, I paused to enjoy the moment.

About ten minutes into my reverie, I saw a young girl and her 10-year-old brother, I assumed, walking up to the nametag table. As I approached, the writing on her nametag became legible. It was Maria. After a quick introduction and some conversation about the best place to set up, I walked to the Cabriolet parked nearby and unloaded my display things and table.

Maria is bright and unusually focused for a sophomore in high school. She asked meaningful questions and quickly understood the answers. I especially liked how she took charge of the situation. It is her One Can A Week project and she stepped in moments after some one walked up to our table. Most were older folks and confronted me first. After a sentence or two, Maria politely interjected and told them who she was and where she lived and that she was starting One Can A Week in August. (She’s giving herself some time off from school work to rest a bit. See, another smart move on her part.)

Peter Norback - 1960 Clayton
High School yearbook photo
Following our conversation with the neighborhood’s recently retired mail carrier, a woman came up my side of the table and proudly announced that “she knew the guy who created One Can A Week and she went to high school with him.” Maria had a puzzled look on her face, as did I. The woman continued to mention about all of the newspaper articles on One Can A Week and at this point I interrupted her. “I’m the guy you are referring to,” I smiled.

“I’m Ellen Schiffman” she excitedly replied and stepped around the table to give me a big hug. I knew her name instantly but couldn’t place her face mostly because I had not seen her in fifty years. The lasting image I have of Ellen is an energetic teenager engaged in a lot of school and social activities.

And she couldn’t place my face either even though I’ve had a few photos in the local papers. Another Clayton High School friend, Merle Stolar, is an attorney here in town and she did call me after seeing my photo. (Clayton is a suburb in St. Louis, MO.)

We’ve had several very pleasant lunches and during the course of our first get together Merle mentioned Ellen and Mark Nathanson who also live in Tucson.

“You know, I wanted to have lunch with you and Merle”, Ellen said as if we were back at Clayton leaning on the lockers in the hall, “but she said no. I guess she wanted you all to herself.”

Maria and I looked at each other blankly. “I have to tell you, Maria,” I said, “that never happened to me back in high school.” Maria‘s face blossomed into a huge grin.

This Thursday Ellen and I are having dinner at the Red Lobster to catch up after a half century of going our separate ways. In August, Maria will be begin her own One Can A Week adventure. There is something to be said about listening to the beat of a different drummer. You end up with lots of interesting stories to tell and sometimes you get invited to a lobster dinner.

Racing Off to Help Their Moms Celebrate Mother’s Day
But no matter, our neighbors didn’t forget about the hungry families here in Tucson. And come to think of it, isn’t that the first thing Moms teach us to do anyway? Take care of everyone no matter how busy you are.

We collected a total of 170 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $36.50, $11.50 in cash and a $25.00 check.

See you Sunday,


Monday, May 2, 2011

121st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Sunflower’s Subtle Reminder

Rosemary is the new Events Coordinator at the Sunflower Farmers Market on Speedway and Swan. So what happened to the old Events Coordinator? Well, Michelle is her name and she now manages a store in California where her daughter attends college. That worked out well.
A monster 37-inch tall
Community Food Bank
 box stands ready at the
 Swan and Speedway
Sunflower Farmers Market.

In her first week on the job, Rosemary discovered our little One Can A Week shelf talkers and had an idea. She taped one below each of the credit card readers at the seven checkout counters. By Wednesday, the normal pick up day, the Community Food Bank box was nearly half-full. At today’s weigh-in, their donations tipped the scale at 70 lbs.

That was highly unusual because over the past three weeks, the food donations have been slowly dwindling: 38 lbs., 22 lbs. and 14 lbs.

Prior to her leaving, Michelle and I had a conversation about the culture in her store. She knew the Rincon Market and its success which she rightfully contributed to its casual atmosphere. People go to the Rincon Market for a pleasant meal and a little shopping.

On the other hand, Sunflower shoppers just want to get in, buy the healthiest of foods and get out.

Michelle didn’t blame them nor was she surprised by the small food donations.Who has time these days to dawdle in a supermarket? At least that was our conclusion.

Seventy pounds of food donated
by Sunflower Market customers
in one week.
Then along comes Rosemary who figured Seventy pounds of food donated by Sunflower Market customers in one week. out that by simply posting a little sign with a gentle suggestion: “Please don’t forget your One Can A Week food donation for the Community Food Bank,” those folks living the harried life can be encouraged to pause a second and think about the needy.

This is a good lesson for One Can A Week. Subtly works in the neighborhoods where participants are quietly thanked or reminded to donate food each week. Rosemary discovered subtly will work everywhere One Can A Week is introduced. Hunger is a long-term problem and perhaps by simply prompting folks respectfully each and every week we can create a long-term solution.

May Day on Their Minds
Pool parties were the order of the day last Sunday so lots of folks were out enjoying the incredible weather. No matter, we still collected enough food to top a basket.

We collected a total of 164 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $33.50, $8.50 in cash and a $25.00 check.

See you Sunday,