Monday, April 25, 2011

120th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Anna and Her All-Grown-Up Kids

The Story of Anna

Before moving to the Miles neighborhood in 2002, I lived next door to Anna on E. Vernice Street which is just a couple of block south of Kolb and Golf Links in the Stella Mann neighborhood.

Anna had a Corrections Officer husband and four young children and we always said hello whenever we met on the sidewalk in front of our homes. Over time I learned that the two girls were very bright students especially in math and science, and the boys … well, they were really good at baseball which meant they were bright, too, in a non-book way.

About three years into our friendly sidewalk greetings, Anna told me she was getting a divorce but was not moving. I liked that because the kids would have one more stable element in their lives besides their mom.

Now and then I helped Anna with heavy, man things like fixing doors and carrying heavy packages. One day Anna mentioned she had to deal with mortgage payments and refinancing and she confided in me that she always let her ex handle the finances.

My solution to help—which is another man thing I do, but sometimes I just listen, too—was to introduce her to my accountant friend. I knew he could really help her. In our first meeting we sat in a small conference room a few doors down the hall from my friend’s office and he explained a little about refinancing a home and Anna sat there in silence. I could tell she understood the meaning of the words spoken but her somber face portrayed her lack of understanding of the whole process. Quietly Anna began to cry. “I don’t understand anything,” she sobbed. “I don’t know anything.”

My friend told Anna everything would be okay. He would help her through the whole process. My “two cents” centered on learning itself. “Anna,” I said, “none of us knows anything in the beginning. We just ask questions and hopefully remember the answers.”

9/11 and its effect on my income forced me to move to Farmington, Missouri and stay with my brother and his wife for one year. When I returned to Tucson I ended up in the Miles neighborhood and lost track of Anna. On a sunny spring day while walking my Westies in Himmel Park, a school bus stopped right beside me and Anna popped off. That was a very nice surprise.

In the next 15 minutes while she waited for her ride, we caught up on all those years we were apart. She was graduating soon from Pima and was headed to the U of A to complete her degree is social work. Anna said she loves school and got over her fear of not knowing anything. In fact, she said she sits in the front of all her classes and asks a lot of questions. At first she thought she was being a nuisance but the other students came up to thank her because her questions help them understand, also.

Two days ago I got a friend request from Facebook but did not recognize the last name.

“Hi Peter! It's me Anna, your old next door neighbor. (I took back my maiden name).....I saw your smiling face today in a presentation for one of my Grad school classes! The One Can A Week project that some of my classmates worked with you on! Very, very impressed with the level you all took this and wasn't surprised at all that you started the idea...still a giving person!! :-) Well I am just finishing up my 2nd semester part-time working on an MSW (Masters in Social Work) degree along with John, Vidal & Stacey. We'll have to catch up!!! Great to see you're still in town making a positive difference!!

The best part of this story is I was around when Anna just decided to make a difference … in her life, in her kids’ lives and everyone she comes in contact with every day. Nothing can beat the feeling of helping someone take complete control of his or her world. For me it’s the real joy of life!

A Good Case of “Average” Creep
In our first two years of donating food to the Community Food Bank, our weekly average was around 168 lbs. It’s different this year … very different.

Our first quarter average was 219 lbs. a week. In the first four weeks of our second quarter, our weekly average is 244 lbs. How “better than average” is that?

We collected a total of 188 lbs. of food, including 2 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $33.45, $8.45 in cash and a $25.00 check.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 18, 2011

119th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Something to Sing About

Every week our poundage is quite healthy. Just look at that tuna resting against the handle and the fruits and vegetables at the foot of the cart. There is even a huge bag of Vet Special Diet dog food.

We collected a total of 318 lbs. of food, including 110 lbs. from The Axis Food Mart. The money we donated amounted to $34.50, $9.50 in cash and a $25.00 check.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 11, 2011

118th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Going to the Dogs

Jerky Tenders sure looked inviting especially with samples of the product showing through the clear oval window on the right side of the bag. However, once you get past the images and start to read, the word “dog” suddenly appears. Oh, well, they are our best friends so they deserve enticing packaging, too.

We collected a total of 192 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $33.50, $8.50 in cash and a $25.00 check.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 4, 2011

117th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Three ASU School of Social Work – Tucson Component graduate students –
Stacey Harrington (left),Vidal Ramirez and John Rorke – take on the
challenging task of citywide community outreach andeducational
materials implementation for One Can A Week.

Influencing the Influential

In the world of selling new ideas, there’s an old saw: Nobody wants to be the first to buy, but there is always a line for second.

I learned this first hand in my publishing day in New York City. My brother and I had book ideas like The Misspeller’s Dictionary, Great Songs of Madison Avenue (The Jingle Songbook) and Great North American Indians, but for nearly a year we couldn’t sell any publisher on taking a chance with our concepts. Maybe a week after Quadrangle/The New York Time Book Publishing Company bought our first book, The Misspeller’s Dictionary, we got calls. In the next 8 years, we sold and published 22 books with the likes of Random House, Simon and Schuster and Macmillan.

For some time now I have been having that New York feeling about One Can A Week. No matter what I tried to do to get others to get involved in our program, nothing sparked. But I keep making sales calls. Most of them were those no fun, “I wish I didn’t have to do this” cold calling. Grab the door handle, take a breath, walk in the office and say, “Hi, my name is…”

Of course, the failure rate for cold calls is quite high. After I get rejected and a bit dejected, I tell myself that Babe Ruth had far more strikeouts than home runs. That works for me most of the time. The other times I just keep pressing forward.

Then on January 20th I walked into the offices of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and met John Rorke. He motioned to me as he hung up the phone. Within a minute or two I learned he was the mentee for Gabe Zimmerman and that he will take my card and present my idea in the morning staff meeting.

The fall election had two weeks to go when I met Gabby Giffords during my Saturday stint at the Rincon Market. If you remember from an earlier post, Gabby thought her volunteers might want to hear about our One Can A Week program because they may be looking for something meaningful to do after the election.

I told this story to John and I saw in his face that he liked what he just heard. John said he would call me in a few days and that’s exactly what he did.

In the beginning of our phone conversation he was talking slowly and choosing his words carefully. My first thought was “here comes another no!” But that was not what he was trying to tell me. He wanted to take on One Can A Week himself as part of his graduate course work and create a community outreach and educational program that will be presented to all of the neighborhood associations and gated communities in Tucson. He wants to develop a sustainable program that will build strong communities by focusing on one unifying project. For him, One Can A Week is such a project. It’s simple, cost effective and fun.

Last Wednesday Stacey, Vidal, John and I met Bill Carnegie and Pauline Hechler at the Community Food Bank. Bill is the CEO and Pauline, the VP of Development so we were in decision-making company.

Pauline opened the meeting by asking Stacey, Vidal and John to tell her a little something about themselves. It wasn’t long before they all realized they had lots of family and friends in common. Pauline and Bill knew the Harringtons, Stacey’s family, Vidal’s La Frontera connections and most of John’s coworkers at Gabby’s office.

Somewhere near the halfway point in their educational materials presentation involving slides, charts and a large graphic display, Pauline turned to Bill and said, “We have to include the printing costs of these materials in our budget.” Bill didn’t hesitate. “Yes, give them a budget.”

This is where these graduate students showed their most professional demeanor. They didn’t flinch. They had reached their goal even before finishing their presentation and they just calmly agreed that a budget would help them move forward.

Of course, in the parking lot things were a bit more emotional. And I was as excited for them as they were for themselves. If this is how effective John, Stacey and Vidal are out of the gate, imagine what they will produce when all of their materials are printed and they are making presentation to neighborhood associations throughout the city.

They got their first buyer…now the other buyers will just have to get in line.

It Was Nuts This Week
Every week there is always a special food that sticks out. Maybe it’s lots of cereal boxes or peanut butter jars. This time it was two huge bags of walnuts (upper right in the cart). What great food and a very thoughtful donation. So many nutritional benefits in every bite.

We collected a total of 194 lbs. of food including 48 lbs. of produce. The money we donated amounted to $59.00, $34.00 in cash and a $25.00 check.

See you Sunday,