Monday, January 30, 2012

160th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Give A Little, Take A Lot

That’s the deal I made three years ago with scores of my neighbors in the Miles Neighborhood. Give me a can a week on Sunday and I will take a lot of food to the Community Food Bank on Monday.

Our deal has worked out great, too. Beginning in 2009 through 2011, we donated 35,751.5 lbs. of food and $7,828.09 in cash. Just counting the food, we fed 9,168 folks and their kids three meal in one day.

About two months ago, Pauline Hechler, VP of Development, invited me to the January 26th Community Food Bank board meeting because she wanted to personally introduce me to all of its members. Since they are helping run my favorite charity, I also wanted to meet them.

About two forkfuls into my scrambled eggs, Pauline, who was seated next to me, stood up and made the introduction mentioning our impressive donation numbers.

Then Bill Carnegie, the CEO, walked up behind my chair and said he had something for me. I stood up and he handed me this handsome, and quite heavy, metal plate with an inscription on it. He began to read aloud.

Bill Carnegie shows me the beautiful
Wilton Armetale plate and reads the
inscription as Pauline Hechler looks on.
Photo by Meghan Heddings 

This is one time subtlety escapes me.
It is quite obvious that I am completely
taken with the presentation, the
sentiment and the heft of the 12" plate.
Photo by Meghan Heddings

Bill Carnegie and I take the
obligatory presentation photo
which a few hours later gave me
the idea to present this elegantly
engraved award to all those who
have helped me feed so many people.
What surprised me is how quickly
everyone took to the idea. Moments
after they held the plate their replies
were nearly identical. “Wow, of
course you can take my picture.”
Photo by Pauline Hechler
“As substantial as they are
beautiful” is the opening line in the
Wilton Armetale brochure. You will
see below, each person I handed
the plate to read the inscription and
then clutched it warmly.

With deep apprecition for creating the One Can AWeek Program.Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, January, 2012.

Bill is reading and I’m thinking, “What a beautiful plate, I love this design … and everything.”

I’m not an awards kind of guy. I do things because they need to be done. I don’t look for any kind of mention or at-a-boys. I instantly changed my mind when I held this magnificent memento. Later in the day when thinking about Sunday’s pick up I decided to show, no, give this plate to my neighbors. By putting out all of those cans for 160 weeks straight, they forced me to qualify for this award.

And like me, they have to get their picture taken. (There are scores of Miles neighbors to award and they will appear here over the weeks.)

I’m the official keeper of the plate, but any time a neighbor wants to throw a party or have a special gathering of friends, they can borrow it to tout their good works and at the same time, encourage others to step up as they have.

Now I’m thinking about where to display this elegant plate in my humble home.

Food Bank Deliveries Made Easy
Cory, who lives on Highland Ave., operates the Treehouse Thai Message Spa located at 148 S. 4th Avenue with her husband. They recently ran a food drive and their customers donated $178. Since Cory participates in One Can A Week, she knew I’d gladly deliver her donation.

Everyone should follow Cory’s lead. If someone you know has food or money to donate to the Community Food Bank, just volunteer my services. After all, I’m there every Monday delivering our neighborhood donations.

We collected a total of 166 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $214.50, two checks for $206.00 and $8.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, January 23, 2012

159th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
If Somebody Screws Up,
We Don’t Think We’ve Won the Lottery

John, my friend, my client and my mentor lives in the Foothills and donates to One Can A Week nearly every session we have. He buys those handsome food packs of soup, peanut butter or fruit you find at Costco. Out of respect and gratitude, I always place them in the upper right hand corner of the shopping cart so he can quickly spot his donation. (See photo below.)
Ultra Thin MacBook Air
For many months now we have been switching John’s electronic media from PC to Mac starting with the iPad. He got an iPhone next and just this past Friday, a MacBook Air. The transition has been fun and interesting, like Go Daddy doesn’t handle iPads well so we had to move John’s company website. ( is the answer for those interested techies.)

This whole move is possible because Microsoft Office now works well on Macs. Consequently, it makes no difference what operating system you have; you can Outlook, Word, Excel or PowerPoint to your heart’s delight on either system.

What turned out not to be so much fun were the glitches on the retail side. I suggested John buy his new computer at Simutek on Ft. Lowell because I’ve known them for years and I like their style, not to mention, the lines are much shorter there.

We wanted the Office Suite loaded on the machine when we picked it up, but this did not happen. Then when I tried to download the software at John’s home, the Mac was password protected. Son of a …!

“Call Simutek,” John quietly suggested as I tried a few generic passwords and several more colorful words. My frustration was growing because John is really important to me, and too, I do not suffer incompetence well.

“Call Simutek,” he said again handing me the phone.

The person who answered my call had no idea what the password might be and the person who would was off.

As I packed up the computer John said, “We cannot let our frustrations get in the way; we just have to get it done.”

“I’m just venting, John,” I replied. “Of course I never talk to people like that. It’s counter productive.”

There was a young woman behind the counter when I arrived at Simutek. After my brief, smileless explanation, she quickly apologized and went into the back to get the generic password because she did not know it either.

Upon her return, she gave me the password and then asked me if I wanted to speak to the owner. “We, and especially the owner, pride ourselves on how we handle our customers,” she said.

“No,” I replied smiling now, “John and I never think we hit the lottery because someone messes up. That’s just not right to take advantage of people like that. What I would like you to do is take responsibility for this situation and talk to your boss. Inform everyone about generic passwords and train staff to do what they say they are going to do. It appears that folks here aren’t really working as a team. Nothing seems to be passed on.”

Before we parted, she asked me for my business card so she can put it in their book of computer instructors. The only card I give out these days is One Can A Week, which I realized, will really stick out among all those techie designs. Maybe I will win a few new clients from this experience. Even if nothing happens, it is so much better than winning a gotcha-lottery.

Little Boy Blue
Jeff and Emily opened the door and there stood their little blond hair blue-eyed baby boy dressed from head to toe in a blue jumper. He handed me a can of beans and said “Bye.” Got to remember to bring my camera on my Sunday rounds.

We collected a total of 206 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $36.50, a $25.00 check and $11.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

158th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

It’s Never Good to Bark at Your Neighbors

Adam (left) thinks that if people have an internet, then
why can’t dogs have a barknet. Outside is his Starbucks
cafĂ© where he can’t wait to connect with all of his doggy
buddies in the neighborhood.
The alley was a bit of a mess following the Brush and Bulky pickup earlier in the week. After my stint at the Rincon Market on Saturday I decided to rake it back into presentable again. Adam, my 9-year-old Westie wasn’t happy with the scraping sounds and a cat or two that sauntered by. So he barked and barked some more.

Every few minutes I checked on him to quiet him down. But then he’d start up again. I finished my raking in about 45 minutes and walked back into the house. It was then that I noticed the ground was wet and my artwork table under the canopy was covered with big droplets of water. I checked my pups and felt water on Molly’s back but nothing on Adam. (That's the way it always is. Adam starts something and poor Molly takes the brunt.)

My first thought was the garden hose next to the gate ruptured again. Nope. That wasn’t it. Then the slow dawning… Oooh, my new neighbors, Melissa and Sean in the big house, sprayed water over my fence to quiet the barking. The wet artwork disturbed me but the attack on my pups was infuriating. Somebody accosted my dogs when I was just 50 feet down the alley.

An ultrasonic biofeedback
device that turns barks into
sounds only dogs can hear.
I flipped the water off the two posters I had recently printed and calmed my self down. In about three minutes I had a plan.

Melissa answered the front door and I apologized for Adam’s barking. I knew that was the reason for the sun shower because she had yelled at Adam from inside her home months earlier when he was particularly noisy.

Melissa said that Sean was trying to take a nap and Adam was thwarting his efforts. I love naps myself so I understood but suggested next time instead of spraying water and ruining a couple of Rincon Market / Community Food Bank posters, she should call my cell which I always carry. I gave her my card and said I want to make her life here as comfortable as possible. Actually, I thought that would be the end of it.

Sunday morning just before I started my rounds, I check the mailbox. Inside was a Bark Off package with a green note card envelope taped to it. When I opened the envelope and took out the card, inside was a $50 check and a note.

“Thank you for giving me your card today,” Melissa wrote. “Please find enclosed a donation to your “One Can A Week” program. I hope it helps replace any water damaged posters. P.S. Perhaps this (Bark Off) would be another non-invasive way to hush the repetitive barking from your dogs? If you are willing, we could give it a try.”

I had that Bark Off up and running a few minutes after I stopped for lunch. It will take a week or so for the ultrasonic sound to affect Adam, as the package insert warned, but in this case, whether the product works or not, it’s the thought that really counts.

There was a situation. The people involved decided not to bark at one another and instead put aside emotions to consider each other’s concerns. This is my kind of world.

Ready to Hit the Books
A number of students just got back from vacation so we collected a whole bunch more food this week. And the good news is they well be here until late May.

We collected a total of 194 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $76.75, two checks for $75.00 and $1.75 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, January 9, 2012

157th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Nothing Makes You Think about Change
Like A Big Red Umbrella

Last Sunday I knew I needed a new umbrella the moment metal fatigue overwhelmed my old red umbrella as I turned left onto Vine from 12th Street and a flailing support rod bonked me on the head.

Within a few blinks and some head shaking, I figured out what had happened and quickly resolved to spend a little more money on the next red umbrella. For just $10 more I bought a taller, wider and stronger (made of wood not hollow metal rods) red umbrella that will better resist Arizona's intermittent breezes.

Of course, after that incident I decided to pay more attention to nature’s little hints because I truly dislike blows to the cranium. (Now that I think about it that was one of the major reasons I quit soccer as a kid. Being out of breath all of the time was the other reason.)

On Saturday at the Rincon Market, a gentleman stepped up to my display table and asked me if the Food Bank were still in a tough spot. When I told him about the 235,000 folks they service monthly, he reached into his pocket and dropped a $5.00 bill on the donation plate. A short time later as he and his wife were leaving, we struck up another conversation but this time we talked about collecting food in the neighborhoods. She liked the idea and wanted to participate. She asked me if I would begin a program in her Sam Hughes neighborhood.

You need neighbors to do that for you I suggested. But later I thought that for three years I have searched for such neighbors and only a few have taken up the challenge like fifteen-year-old Maria in the Catalina Vista neighborhood.

Maybe this was another one of nature’s red umbrella moment. There must be a way to motivate non-neighbors to gather food donations weekly in neighborhoods across. Tucson. My frustration is I know there are donations there just waiting to be picked up. Fifty percent of the Miles Neighborhood participates so it follows other neighborhoods can do as well or better.

On my way out of the door at the Community Food Bank today I heard a voice call my name. I turned around to see Pauline Hechler, VP of Development walking across the warehouse floor toward me.

Happy New Year and a hug followed. She was on her way to a meeting and I only had a few seconds to talk.

“I’ve been thinking, I’d like to have lunch with you because I need help in formulating a plan to get other neighborhoods involved. Jacob said he gets requests from people looking for projects and perhaps One Can A Week can be that project.”

“Maybe we can have Jacob put those people in touch with you,” Pauline quickly replied.

“No, it really has to be a program affiliated with a major organization,” I said, “like the Peace Corps. Something that is a part of something bigger.’

Then Pauline’s next thought hit me like my old red umbrella, “There is a lot of food out there we just have to pick it up.”

Didn’t I just think that?

Here’s another idea I had. Let’s call the volunteers who fan out in Tucson neighborhoods each Sunday The Red Umbrella Corps. Wait, I bet Pauline already thought of that. Wonder what other ideas she’ll have for me at lunch.

I’m paying attention now.

It Got a Little Personal this Sunday
In addition to the boxes of cereal and bunches of bananas, folks donated some very nice personal items such as shampoos, soaps and tooth paste. (Pictured on the ground to the right.)

We collected a total of 176 lbs. of food plus 8 lbs in non-food items. The money we donated amounted to $31.50, a $25.00 check and $6.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

156th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Little Time, Lots of Food
8 Hours a Week = 9.6 Tons of Food in 2011

4,130 lbs. of food collected in 2011

John, my neighbor on 13th Street walked over to my Cabriolet on Sunday to hand me his can of tuna. I thanked him for the curb service and he sighed, “Retirement is driving me nuts. I’ve got to find something to do.” 

1,893 lbs. of food collected in 2011
He mentioned a few volunteer web sites he visited but he had no idea what he wanted to do. Obviously, seeing me encouraged him to think aloud about his consternation.

Most people consider me retired because of my age and community service commitment but I’m an entrepreneur. And entrepreneurs never stop working until their sun finally sets. I teach computer mostly but I write and take any interesting job I can find. (By the way, being job selective also makes me look retired.)
13,249 lbs. of food collected in 2011
A few hours later I thought of John and the mental processes he is experiencing. He’s had a job most of his life so he is thinking “volunteer job” and that thought probably gives his chills because it sounds as boring as retirement itself.

In 2009 when I thought of One Can A Week to help the hungry here in Tucson, my intension was to create a program that was easy on me and easy for others to participate. I like physical repetitive work because it’s a great way to exercise without running or biking to nowhere … and something gets done.

Right now I spend three hours on Sunday visiting my neighbors and picking up food, threes hours Saturday at the Rincon Market countingmoney, talking to Sam Hughes neighbors and shopping, one hour picking up Sunflower’s food and one hour on Monday, delivering the bounty to the Community Food Bank. That totals eight hours a week and tons of weight lifting and walking.

I’m having fun doing what is good for me and as it turns out, my fun is beneficial for lots of other folks, too. That’s what John has to start thinking about and anyone else looking to make a difference. What can he do that he will enjoy and help others at the same time? Jobs aren’t fun but work you like to do sure is.

Off to a Good Start
Although Sunday was New Year’s Day and a lot of neighbors were otherwise occupied, we collected just 4 lbs. under our normal weekly average. Seems the one resolution everyone again in Miles will keep this year is “Feed hungry kids and their families.”

We collected a total of 164 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $35.00, a $25.00 check and $10.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,