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,


No comments:

Post a Comment