Monday, July 25, 2011

133rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
The Man Was Dressed
All in Black and His Money
Was Very Green
The automatic doors at the Rincon Market slid open and in walked a man looking like Roy Orbison in the latter years except no sunglasses were in sight. He was dressed in black shiny sweat pants and a black cotton polo shirt. His round face was smiling as he slowed to read the large sign in front of the One Can A Week table. His right hand found the invisible pocket seam in his pants and pulled out a wad of folded and rubber banded cash that was at least 2 inches thick I stared at Ulysses S. Grant who stared back at me with half a face. The rest of our 18th President’s gaze was on the other side of the bulging wad

He then motioned as if he were going to place the wad on the well-used paper collection plate. The muscles in my right arm were thinking about reaching out to take that hunk of money but I knew it was just a joke. He raised his eyebrows once or twice as if to ask, “Huh, what do you think? Should I?”

I just sat there motionless and said, “That would be nice.”

He quickly put the lump of money back into his secret vault pocket and walked over to the omelet grill. For the next few minutes I thought about his actions and wondered why he would participate in such an immature practical joke. Folks with that much cash seldom display their wealth. I took a bet with myself that he was feeling a bit foolish as he ate his breakfast. I do that a lot about things, you know, bet myself because I never have to pay when I’m right … or wrong.

I had just about finished counting this week’s donations when the man in black approached my table again. This time he pulled out a much smaller wad that measured about half an inch thick and was topped with a $20 bill. I know this was a different collection of money because he couldn’t have spent that much on breakfast even though the pricing and portions at the Rincon Market are quite healthy.

He peeled off the top bill and placed it on the paper plate. I thanked him and he left. Not one word did he speak throughout our two-act play.

Maybe thirty minutes later my friend Terry stopped by for coffee and a cup of tea that he graciously bought for me. I told him about the man in black and as we spoke, the man popped back in through the sliding doors.

“That’s the guy,” I said looking in his direction.

“I know him,” replied Terry. “I didn’t think he had money.”

I won three time on Saturday. I knew the man in black embarrassed himself. I also knew that he really knew how to handle his money by projecting an average Joe image. And finally, because I knew these things, I earned twenty dollars more for the Community Food Bank.

They Call the
Blue Box Shorty

Trying to fit in, yet wanting still to stand out,
the Community Food Bank Box is engaged in a visual experiment.

As we learned with the Community Food Bank box at the Sunflower Market on Speedway, a collection box is a good thing but if it’s a bit big, 37 inches tall, and a bit plain, lots of white with a little green printing, blending into the d├ęcor may be a struggle.

The new pink box at the Sunflower Market is doing a terrific job. It is collecting a steady average of 24 lbs. a week when just a short time ago there would only be a can or two in the box each week.

For the Senior Companion’s One Can A Week collection campaign at Our Family Services organization, the box was shortened 6 inches, covered in bright blue wrapping paper and bordered by the four 3D Thank You Kids.

The first reaction was a request for another blue box they can display in the Dodge Blvd. office. That is a very good sign.

The Sun is Not Sweet on Chocolate
Toward the end of my run on Sunday a neighbor included 6 Hershey bars along with his can donation. Fifteen minutes later the mushy bars were placed in the freezer awaiting Monday’s delivery.

It takes only 10 minutes to drive from my refrigerator to the Food Bank but still the candy bars were sweating and bending a bit. No matter, no one ever complains about chocolate bars, just the time it takes to stiffen them back up in the cooler.

We collected a total of 160 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $34.50, a $25.00 check and $9.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, July 18, 2011

132nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Five in a Row

Frances Coleman and Peter Norback
My presentation to the Senior Companions at Our Family Services organization last week struck a cord. On Friday I received an email from Frances Coleman, Project Manager, Senior Companions that contained her message to all of her members

“The Senior Companions voted to adopt One Can A Week as their service project, and will bring at least one can to their monthly meetings. Some will bring more. With just one can, we will have 44 cans to donate to the Community Food Bank.”

Frances continued, “40% of the hungry in Tucson are children, which really shocked me. These kids desperately need meals 3 times a day so their brains have a chance to develop. 12% of the hungry are seniors. The remaining folks are the “working poor.” None of these statistics even include the homeless population, so hunger is farther reaching than the numbers reveal."

Stacey Harrington, Vidal Ramirez and John Rorke,
ASU School of Social Work – Tucson Component
graduate students
John called me today to set up a meeting at Chicago pizza Tuesday night. He wants to give me an update on how well the team is moving forward. He spilled the bean a bit though. The Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood is initiating One Can A Week in August and Bill Anderson, the past president is accepting the Coordinator position. Also, La Frontera, Arizona will initiate One Can A Week at its facilities in the next few weeks.

John apologized for taking so long to get the ball rolling for One Can A Week. I wouldn’t hear of it. What great work the team is doing and its only been a month or two.

Rick Stertz
On Saturday morning Rick Stertz stopped by my display table, coffee and roll in hand and picked up the Arizona Star news story I have on display.

“Does this list your contact information?” he asked.

It didn’t so I gave him a business card.

“I have a KVOI radio show to do in a few minutes,” he said, “and I want to talk about your good work.”

Then he was gone.

Rick is always saying I do good work. Not sure what he means because all I do is stand behind the table and smile. Really, that’s not much work at all.

Rincon Market Saturday morning
John, my favorite Systems Engineer graduate student at the U of A came up to the table to tell me he was hungry and he started One Can A Week in his neighborhood.

He visited 10 homes and 6 asked to participate and requested he come back every Sunday. That’s close to the percentage I experienced. Hope it’s a trend.

John ordered one of those terrifically huge Rincon Market omelets and his hunger went away…and then so did he.

Right when Al Shoemaker called me at the Axis Food Mart, I was extremely busy with a keg delivery and 5 or 6 customers. Al was having one of those “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moments.

Kym Fuhrig
He slid to the floor between his couch and some other furniture and only had the strength to reach for his cell phone. He said he went down the list in his mind of his nearest neighbors but they were away on vacation…all of them.

Al called me because I’m around a lot. But at the moment I was swamped and couldn’t close the store and run to his aid. Then I thought of Kym, our volunteer on 13th Street.

Within seconds she answered the phone and started writing down directions. A few minutes later she was by Al’s side helping him up on the couch. Only Al’s pride was slightly injured…and whose wouldn’t be.

Kym saved Al and me that day. Next time I see Rick Stertz I’m going to tell him, “Now that’s what I call good work!”

Not So Much as Always
This is the first week in a very long time that we did not maintain our average of 168 lbs. I got a little sad but then I remembered … hey, there’s always next week.

We collected a total of 136 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $58.50, $50.00 in checks and $8.50 in cash.

Monday, July 11, 2011

131st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
This May Work!

On Tuesday and Wednesday I’ve been invited to make a One Can A Week presentation to the Senior Companion Volunteers at Our Family Services. These folks are involved in a “national volunteer service initiative through which low-income women and men 55 years of age and older receive stipends to provide respite and companion services to homebound elderly adults and people with disabilities.”

Click on link to read more about Our Family Services.

The reason I say this may work is in the past when I explained how One Can A Week works to a group, someone immediately pipes up. “What a great idea. I can just have them drop off their donations at my home.”

For the next few minutes I have to explain—with a bit of a forced smile on my face—how that does not work and neighbors will resent having to do all of the work while the “organizer” cools his or her heals at home.

A few doubted my assessment of their approach and they pressed forward anyway. Unfortunately, their efforts or better yet, their non-efforts never paid off.

So the “visiting neighbors” conundrum is apparently off the table for Our Family Services’ Senior Companion Volunteers. It’s what they do.

In the email I received from Frances Coleman, the Senior Companion Program Manager inviting me to talk, she wrote, “It is my hope the Senior Companions will like the One Can A Week idea, and adopt it as their service project for the year.”

Great, now all I have to do is get them excited about the effectiveness of the program.

While creating the presentation I compiled a chart highlighting the donations the Miles Neighborhood made yearly to the Community Food Bank. This is a companion piece to the statistics enumerating who the needy are and how many the Food Bank serves. It’s really depressing if you think about it much. Facts like, one is seven children in Southern Arizona is at risk of hunger or 45% of the Food Bank’s client base is the Working Poor.

Shortly after adding up our donations I was smiling again. In 131 weeks we have donated over 30,725 lbs. of food and $5,850.64 in cash. Just counting the food, we have fed 7,878 folks three meals in one day. It’s a whole bunch more if we calculate in the money. Bill Carnegie, the Food Bank CEO says each dollar is equivalent to $10 dollars in food and services. That means we kind of donated $58,506.40. Amazing.

Will I be successful in convincing others to join our support of the Community Food Bank? Not sure, but I do have a terrific story to tell, thanks to all the Miles neighbors I visit each and every Sunday.

Racing the Rain
Think a record was set this Sunday. The gathering storm clouds caused me to scoot around the neighborhood. I finished before 2 pm but still had my 45-minute lunch. Then nuts, no rain!

We collected a total of 158 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $6.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

130th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
It Only Gets Better
Miles Neighborhood Community Food Bank Donations
2011 Second Quarter Results

Thanks to the Axis Food Mart we’ve had the best quarter so far. (See June 13th below.) Our total collection amounted to 5,350 lbs. of food and $659.06 in cash donations.

When you compare the first two quarters of this year to 2010 and 2009, you can easily see that we’ve improved on our ability to help the hungry here in Tucson.

    2011                                      2010                                      2009
8,223 lbs.                              7,452.5 lbs.                             4,411 lbs.
$1,242.56                              $965.40                                  $612.88

From a purely sociological standpoint, we have conclusively shown that neighborhoods—responding in a low key, consistent manner—can solve the hunger problem in America.

The Sunflower Farmers Market on Speedway
Proves Color and Location Generates More Donations

When the Community Food Bank donation box was white and tucked in a corner near the microwave oven, donations dropped from 42 lbs. to 2 lbs. per week. After we turned the box pink, added the Thank You Kids, and then moved the box into a high traffic area, donations jumped to 104 lbs. for one week.

The most recent two weeks have garnered 34 lbs. and 32 lbs. of food respectively, a more consistent and productive donation program.

The next donation box to “go pink” is at the Rincon Market.

The Pink Box is next to the electric scooters and the front door. In
its first week in the new location, the donations amounted to 32 lbs.

The week The Pink Box collected 104 lbs., it was sitting next
to the customer service desk and even a bag of trash did not
deter the donations.

The red oval on the right is where The Pink Box sat for a week
before being moved to its permanent location (red oval on the
left) next to the scooters. It reality, it went from one side of the
high-traffic front door to the other.

Donations Never Take a Holiday
Lots of folks got the jump on the 4th of July and headed for the mountains or the hotel pools. But no matter, we still came in above our weekly average of 168 lbs.

We collected a total of 178 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $48.00 … a check for $25.00 and $23.00 in cash.

See you Sunday.