Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hi Folks,
Nobody’s Getting Tired or Bored
Helping the Hungry

2011 Fourth Quarter Report

We donated 13,249 lbs. of food in 2011.

We also donated $3,220.01 in cash.

To put it another way, at 1.3 lbs. per meal, we donated 10,192 meals or we fed 3,397 people three meals in one day. It’s amazing, after three years of weekly donations, we only missed last year’s total weight by 50 lbs.

Where we far exceeded expectations is in our cash donations. This year’s total was $3,220.01. Based on the cost of the Community Food Bank’s food and services we donated $32,200.10. That’s a $1.00 = $10.00 ratio. Last year our cash donation was $2,654.70 or $565.31 less than this year.

Next Sunday is the beginning of our fourth year of donating to the Community Food Bank. I’m still hungry to help and after analyzing 2011’s figures, I know you are, too.

The Divas Are Back
In December, two years ago, Debbie and her Eastside Domestic Diva friends collected a bunch of food and dropped it off at her sister’s home on Miles Street. They did it again this year but this time they heard about the Community Food Bank’s request for cereal. When I got to Kelly’s home near the end of Miles, I could see her front porch was brimming with boxes. So many, in fact, Kelly, in her bare feet, had to help me carry them over the gravel walkway to my car.

“Doesn’t that hurt?” I asked. “I could only walk on gravel barefoot if someone were shooting at me.”

“When it comes to bare feet,” Kelly replied, “men are such…”

I didn’t quite hear that last word because my mind was overwhelmed with the thought of jagged little rocks digging deep into my tender arches.

At the food bank Tuesday morning the cereal boxes reached twice as high as our highest stack ever. With so many hungry kids, the Divas can break our cereal stacking record any time they want.

We collected a total of 240 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $206.75, $175.00 in checks and $31.75 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, December 19, 2011

154th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

“Call Detective Mark and tell him to hurry.”

Maen Mdanat, owner of the Axis Food Mart
Since February 2010, I have been writing about my friend Maen Mdanat, the owner of the Axis Food Mart. The reason is he never disappoints me. Tiger Woods disappoints me. Joe Paterno and the whole Penn State crew disappoints me. But Maen, even as time and a stressful business economy trudges on, is the same person I met that chilly day in his parking lot almost two years ago . He reminds me of a company president who, when asked why he doesn’t take notes in meetings, said, “I don’t have to, I never lie.”
People have raised questions about Maen’s character, integrity and ethnicity when he applied for his beer and wine license and again when he applied for a liquor license. Those questions forced him to defend himself and his business and cost him a lot in legal fees. He prevailed with no malice in his heart.

Through all of those tribulations, I was one of his most ardent supporters because he listened to my ideas about protecting our neighborhood and helped eradicate the vagrant problem. During a licensing session at the city council, Councilman Frimbres shook our hands and asked me, “He’s still a good guy, right?”

“Yes, sir, he is,” I replied. I could tell Councilman Fimbres was counting on me to vouch for Maen because he knew how much my One Can A Week program means to me and that I wouldn’t jeopardize my reputation for anything.

Today there are more people standing in Maen’s corner providing support, namely the Tucson Police Department.

If you remember in June of this year I wrote in the 129th Week Update, The Beer Keg Caper about Maen’s efforts to help the police capture a thief. Well, a little over a week ago Maen received a letter from the Tucson Police Department with an update on the case and a commendation. The letter reads in full:

“Mr. Maen Mdanat,

“In June 2011, officers from the Tucson Police Department Liquor Licensing unit received information that numerous kegs were stolen from restaurants all over Tucson. The kegs were possibly being returned to receive money back from deposits.

“You were contacted reference this investigation and provided valuable information which lead to officers identifying one of the participants. On June 23, 2011, you phoned officers and advised the suspect was currently in your store returning more kegs. Officers were able to contact the individual. It was discovered two individuals were responsible for the thefts all over Tucson. The subjects were charged with multiple felony arrests due to your cooperation with the Tucson Police Department.

“The Tucson Police Department is thankful for your partnership in this investigation. Without your participation, this case probably would not have been resolved and the local businesses would continue to suffer financial losses. Sincerely, Captain Clayton Kidd, Commander Traffic Division.”

Maen’s been very good for the Miles Neighborhood in many, many ways.

I’ve thanked him a number time for keeping me and my neighbors safe. Perhaps in the spirit of the holiday season you could stop by his store and thank him yourself.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rain and Shine
The rain chased the sun in and out of the clouds this past Sunday but no matter, we collected more than 30 lbs. above our weekly average. With great results like that, who cares if you get a little wet.

We collected a total of 200 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $107.50, a $25.00 check and $82.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, December 12, 2011

153rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

After 400 She Stopped Counting
Lorraine Aguilar stands beside one of the largest of many hundreds of nativity scenes that decorate her Miles Street home during the Christmas holiday. She is such a cheerful lady I wanted to capture her very warm smile in the photo but she became a bit involved in that “my picture is being taken thing.” “Cheese” wasn’t going to work so I said, just before I snapped the shutter, “Now tell yourself a dirty story.” Got it!
For the past 46 years, The St. Augustine Cathedral celebrates “Las Posadas” in neighborhoods around Tucson and the Aguilar Family is one of the homes the peregrinos or pilgrims look forward to visiting. The moment you enter Lorraine’s home you are surrounded with literally hundreds of nativity scenes in different sizes and design from around the world. They are on shelves and in cabinets and along the wall so no matter where you turn, your eyes are dazzled with images of the First Christmas. Lorraine said they stopped counting “after they bought their 400th nativity scene.”

“’Las Posadas’ (shelter) is a traditional Christmas Novena” the St. Augustine Cathedral bulletin states, that “commemorates the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem and their seeking shelter in anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ.

“’Las Posadas’ is a nine day procession of the faithful carrying the statues of the Holy Family while reciting and singing traditional prayers and songs. It was instituted in Acolman, Mexico, in 1587 by Fray Diego de Soria who wished to introduce a Christian Christmas devotion to the newly converted Aztec Indians. …This novena is still celebrated in Mexico and in many Hispanic communities throughout the world today.”

The host families this year in the Miles Neighborhood are the Cota-Robles Family on 12th Street and the Altamirano Family on Miles Street.

The event begins at 6:45 pm, Tuesday, December 20th on the Southwest Corner of Miles and Vine Streets.

Whether you are a member of the St. Augustine Cathedral or not, “Las Posadas” is a wonderful family event and a reminder in this age of technology and gadgets that “peace on earth” is still the best gift we can give each other.

Fortune Smiles
The first leg of my rounds Sunday was “unremarkable” as the doctors say but then I got a call from Barbara on 12th Street who was heading out to church and wanted to know when I would stop by. She has a $500.00 check she did not want to leave with the food at Lenny’s house. Lenny, too, was away celebrating a family birthday.

Turns out the check was written by Patricia, Lenny’s sister who manages a non-profit and this year they selected the Community Food Bank for a contribution.

That was not the end of it. After I completed my rounds at 2:15, I drove up to my Ford to unload and along the full length of the back bumper was a row of shopping bags. Kym had dropped off her 13th Street collection and it was maybe four times more than usual. In fact, she had to make a mid-round break to empty her Radio Flyer wagon because it was getting too heavy.

Kym told me that her neighbors across the street had a party Saturday night and the price of admission was a can or more for the Community Food Bank.

We collected a total of 276 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $606.50, $550.00 checks and $56.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, December 5, 2011

152nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Big Changes Start with Little People

The price we pay for our free will is a blank slate. Unlike other animals that come with programmed instincts, each of us must start our journey on this planet knowing little more than how to suckle. And interestingly enough, just a few years later, we still have to be taught how to use a straw.

The blank slate or
tabula rasa (for those with a high school Latin background) is a good thing especially when times are bad like now. Every day there are so many things challenging our stability we often wish for the “good old days” when the world was still a mess but we never heard about it. The internet, cell phones and instant communications are bringing all those negative images and thoughts right into our living rooms, our cars, our walks in the park and unfortunately, into our kids rooms, too. Nearly everyone is constantly connected to the good and the bad on this planet.
Since bad has few or no rules to encumber it’s progress and often looks like more fun than walking the line, a kind of chaos creep follows us around as we just go about out daily lives.

However, that blank slate we are all born with is really our one chance to evolve into a world that thrives on kindness. It all starts with the birth of a child and the parents’ resolve to only teach their offspring two things, tolerance and understanding.

Just the other day, Ari Kaplan, a best selling
author and attorney in New York City, who has become a One Can A Week coordinator in his New Jersey neighborhood, sent me an email describing how he is helping his 6-year-old daughter learn to help others.

“Peter - just wanted to give you an update. We completed week four on Sunday and made our first delivery to the NJ Food Bank last week - 31 cans. We now have 12 homes participating.

“The best part is that I invited my 6-year-old daughter to join me in this endeavor. The first thing she did on her own was grab a pad and pencil to take inventory. At each house, she reads the can and writes down what it is -- then she signs her name on the 'one-can' (Thank You) note you provide on your website and we continue on. We walk and talk - it is a wonderful experience for us both. She is so excited when there is a can waiting (as am I) and was very proud to donate the bags of food that she personally collected. In fact, she often lets me know how much of the work she does -- cutting the notes, writing her name, leaving the notes, writing down the contents, etc. :) “

And that is my point exactly. Ari is doing his part to fill up his daughter’s blank slate with ideas that will make this a better world to live in, smartphones or not.

With the advent of cell phones, tablets and social media,
the prospect of standing in line to vote every two or four
years seems so disconnected and antiquated.
Stay-At-Home Community Activism

Four weeks into our One Can A Week program, I met Luis Gutierrez, the former City Manager on 13th Street who said he would participate because he felt the program showed respect. I came to his home to get his help. He liked that personal approach and the fact that he didn't have to get really involved in a time-consuming activity to help his community.

Seems Richard Fimbres, our Ward 5 Councilman has learned the same lesson with his vote-by-mail program. In his monthly email to his Ward 5 constituents, Councilman Fimbres wrote:

“This was the first election conducted solely through an all vote-by-mail process.

“My office brought this proposal to the Mayor and Council for consideration. In April of this year, the Mayor and Council discussed a proposal to change the hybrid system (voting by mail and polling place) of casting ballots in a city election to an all-mail ballot process. During these discussions, one of the points that I brought up was to have more people participate in the process by casting their votes.

“In addition, the potential question of reducing costs, in these hard economic times, through less poll workers, renting of voting equipment and locations, were other factors on why this proposal was brought forward. This proposal was approved by a 5 to 2 vote.

“This election showed that an all vote-by-mail process is a good start to get more people active, involved and casting their votes, and speaks for this system to continue to be used for future City elections.”

The numbers say it all. The average increase in voter participation was 18.35%. Amazing!

The next time you see Councilman Fimbres thank him for encouraging the Mayor and Town Council to help more folks to vote and to express themselves in their community.
Fruits Are Gaining Ground
Tis’ the season for harvesting fruit and it appears more and more folks are making it their business to donate as much as they can. Seventy-six pounds of grapefruits and bananas helped us cross the 200 lb. mark this week.

We collected a total of 230 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $33.00, a $25.00 check and $8.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,