Monday, October 29, 2012

199th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
More Than A Month of Sundays

The first knock on the door was at 11:30 am on Sunday, January 11, 2009. A few minutes later my neighbor Beth said yes and became the first participant in our One Can A Week program.

Since then it has been “a month of Sundays” as my friend Ed Altamirano on Miles reminded me. Actually, it’s been 6.6 months of Sundays. Of course, Week 200 is next week and most folks like to celebrate even numbers but to me 199 just seems to have more weight; more significance.

When this year ends in two months we will have set new donation records in the Miles Neighborhood and the Rincon Market. Same neighborhood and same store with the same consistent participants but the amount of giving increases year after year without mentioning a word of encouragement to anyone. Barbara, Lenny, Kym and I just show up week after week. Isn’t that how it should be? We really don’t have to be told to look out for each other do we?

Chased Down Again Arturo on Miles donates now and then but there is always way more than one can in the shopping bag that hangs on his front gate. Even though there was no bag this Sunday, it must have been one of those “now” days because Arturo drove up to me just before I turned onto Manlove.

I told him I was about to finish up and I would stop by. And there it was the bulging bag on the front gate. You know, I have to say now and then, that’s the perfect way to end a day.

We collected a total of 194 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $59.30, a $50.00 check and $9.35 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, October 22, 2012

198th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Two Different Stories with the Same Ending
Children Have
All of the Answers
We Are Looking For

Photo by Molly Thrasher
Rebecca Lipson, the middle school science teacher at the Miles School started One Can A Week three years ago. In the beginning she had to think of all kinds of creative ways to keep the interest up in the community service program for both her students and their parents. She initiated trips to the Food Bank, constructed a paper tree and leaves on the wall in the hallway; even taught her students how to convert ounces to pounds to tally the weight of the food collections.

It all paid off last week. As I was carting the latest weekly collection to the Cabriolet with the help of Tiffany Kassel, the teacher now responsible for One Can A Week, Rebecca came up to us all smiles.

With excited gestures, Rebecca explained her latest project of decorating the front entrance of the school with a huge mosaic mural depicting community involvement. When she asked for suggestions on what to include, the first idea was One Can A Week. “They came up with it themselves,” Rebecca beamed, “I was so pleased.”

Rebecca was delighted because One Can A Week or simply helping others is now a part of their every day thinking. The program is working well every week with this week’s collection amounting to 68 lbs. of food and $40.00 in cash. This means the kids are reminding themselves and their parents to bring food to the school weekly and make a donation to the hungry.

The current trend is if the food is not picked up at the home, donations fall off precipitously after the first week or so because folks forget. This is happening to Mayor Rothschild’s One Can A Meeting program.

But when kids are encouraged and trained to think of others every week, they take that message to heart, stay involved and encourage others around them to participate.

Another example of kids making a huge difference is the nonsmoking campaign where they talked to their folks about quitting. It was good for the children—they won’t start smoking—and their parents may quit, eliminating second hand smoke in their home. Again, good for the children.

If we want a better world for our children to inherit, then it is up to us to teach them successful patterns of behavior instead of them trying to figure things out when they become adults.

We were the beneficiaries of that laissez faire kind of thinking when we were kids and look how that turned out for us. Let’s be real parents and teachers like Rebecca and Tiffany, and put in the hard work now because we really do love our kids.

An Indian Head Penny
For Your Thoughts

Everything today is a lottery. When something happens to us—good, like finding a wallet or bad, like being hit by a car—we immediately think about how much money will come our way.

And that mentality is so ingrained in our society that stories about cab drivers or trash haulers who returned found money make front page news. Such stories shouldn’t be the exception. They should be the expected.

On Saturday while wrapping the change at the Rincon Market I spotted an Indian Head penny in the coin separator machine. It was no great feat because the coin is convex or bent. When I saw what it was, I have to tell you, I knew it was more valuable than a penny and then the lottery bell went off in my brain.

As everyone else in the 99%, I need things. Those things are more related to One Can A Week, but I still need/want things.

I resolved to check it out on the web as soon as I get home. They have computers at the Rincon Market but I didn’t want to get anyone else involved. See, I too, have lotteryitis.

After wrapping the coins I had time to just sit and think and conjure the “chain of custody” of the penny, trying to worm my way in. The coin belonged to the customer who donated it to the Rincon Market who in turn would buy food with the money. That food is then delivered to the Community Food Bank. I’m just a conduit. Even if no one knows or sees anything I am still a conduit.

My dad who majored in philosophy would be so proud of my thought process because he spent the time to teach me to think with my intellect, not with emotions and self interest.

Of course I still looked up the value of the coin on the internet. The second website I visited had a terrific Indian Head Penny Value Chart. It covered every year the coin was minted from 1859 to1909. By the time I got to 1907 I passed 1873 where a circulated penny was valued at $1,000 and an uncirculated penny, $8,000. At 1888 my eyes bulged at $4,000 and $24,000.

Things got back to normal very quickly as I scanned 1907. The value was $1.80 and $20.00.

At that point I decided to put $2.00 in the Rincon Market kitty and the coin in my pocket as a reminder that what you teach your children lasts a lifetime. If you teach your children nothing, that last a lifetime, too.

One-stop Giving
A 12th Street neighbor asked Barbara Farragut if the Food Bank took clothing. She called and they do. However, non food donations sit in storage until an organization like Goodwill or the Salvation Army stops by.

So instead of our neighbors’ goods taking up space at the Food Bank, we deliver those non food donations directly to Goodwill which is near the post office on South Cherry.

We may be One Can A Week, but we are glad to help our neighbors donate more than just food to those in need.

We collected a total of 160 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $7.05 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, October 15, 2012

197th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Senior Companions Celebrate Another
One Can A Week Anniversary

For the second year in a row, Fran Coleman, director of the Senior Companions program for Our Family Services invited me to present One Can A Week certificates of appreciation to their volunteers at the annual recognition luncheon. Even Congressman Raul Grijalva and Mayor Rothschild stopped by to congratulate the volunteers so the Senior Companions program is kind of a big deal here in Tucson.

Last year Senior Companions gave more than 48,000 hours of in-home assistance to frail and disable older folks. The in-home part is very important because people always do better when they are in familiar surrounds.

Before the ceremonies began, Fran told me that she asked the volunteers if they wanted to continue their involvement with One Can A Week and all agreed to participate for another year. This meant that the only person in the room not involved with One Can A Week was Congressman Raul Grijalva. Guess I’ll give him a call right after the election.

 Personal Note

Wasn’t Fooled by the Pepsi Challenge Either

If you watch MSNBC on the internet for more than 15 minutes you will be treated to a commercial touting the search results of Bing over Google.

Now I love Microsoft’s applications especially Word, Internet Explorer, Excel and so much more. I also love Google. I have ever since I discovered them soon after they hit the internet. Right from the beginning their results were more intelligent and thorough. Instead of two or three results before they threw in other related websites based on your keywords, Google goes deep with ten or more specific results.

Seldom do I choose the first search result so as you can imagine, I never click the “Feeling lucky” button.

After listening to a dozen or more of the Bing ads, I decided to take the challenge.

I figured I’d choose once and it would be all over. But no, they kept me around for five tries. I typed in those searches most important to me … my neighborhood, feeding the hungry and a very important client. (See graphic above.)

Like the Pepsi Challenge moving the cups around, Bing kept on changing the position of the search results. It’s either left or right. I just chose the deepest results, meaning the column with the most websites related to my keywords. After five tries they showed me my results … and their disclaimer. They said I “may have won this round” but others picked Bing. What do they mean, may have won? Are they politicians? I won and they printed the winning tally.

I still love Microsoft and I still love Google. Bing? Nah!

“It’s my party so bring a can if you want to” Not quite the lyrical rhythm of Leslie Gore’s famous 60’s song title, but today’s kids are more into helping folks than crying the blues.

As I drove down Miles on my route Sunday, Dan, Debbie and their daughter Anne pulled up beside me. Anne was in the backseat and eager to do all of the talking. “I asked everyone to bring a can to my party and we left a big box of food on our porch.” Then she smiled as her dad pressed on the accelerator.

There was a lot of food and I knew right away that we were going to be way over our 167 lb. average this week.

We collected a total of 196 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $57.00, a $50.00 check and $7.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, October 8, 2012

196th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Isn’t It Obvious?
In the last two weeks of September, Food Banks across the country were promoting and encouraging leaders and ordinary citizens to participate in their Hunger Awareness Program. The idea was to live on the daily food stamp stipend of $4.16 for one week. Of course, there were news articles everywhere covering the pangs of anyone who participated.

The story I read on the Huffington Post featured our very own Mayor Greg Stanton, in Phoenix. It is a good thing to promote the need to help the needy, but my question is why can’t people—in this very expensive country—vicariously understand the struggles of others with no job … or a very low paying job? The truth is, I just don’t understand this empathy deprivation thing at all.

Do people actually have to skip meals and loose 4 pounds to say as Mayor Stanton said, “…people need a job with a living wage?”

And what is a “living wage” anyway?

About the Living Wage Calculator
The Living Wage Calculator, Community Economic Toolbox, and Poverty in America websites were developed by

Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and implemented by West Arete.

Eric Schultheis, a doctoral student in the Department of Urban Studies at MIT, collected, processed, and aggregated the site’s data.”

© 2012 Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

My Google search quickly found a terrific data-filled website about the “living wage” created by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and her team at MIT. The economics of each state is considered including county and city breakouts. The information is extensive and exhausting, I might add. (See chart above to get a taste of what a “living wage” is all about.)

After studying the numbers I realized that a person on food stamps—working 20 hours part time per week—adds only $20.80 to his or her $153.00 gross minimum wage paycheck. That comes to a total of $173.80 per week or $9,037.60 annually. Poverty income is under $11,170* for a single individual.

Even the gross annual income calculated on the “living wage” still does not add up to $10,000 for a single individual working part time. And since part time workers don’t get paid vacations or health care the $10,000 figure is for 52 straight weeks of work.

Then on top of that, part time positions are nearly always kept to the 20-hour limit to avoid paying benefits. Two part time jobs working the maximum hours each week will yield less than $19,000 a year. The poverty level for a family of four is $23,050*.

And when these folks work two part time jobs, they are not just working 40 hours but perhaps 60 because of long bus rides between their home and the different jobs, staying up late or getting up extra early to juggle two different work schedules.

(As an aside, no matter what is said, most folks would rather work and feel good about themselves than take assistance. If you doubt your fellow man or woman wants to work, view this link. From Homeless to Building Homes The story ends with the words, “for once in a long time, they think they are worth something.”)

These minimum wage folks who do the very necessary work of serving us our fast food, or groceries or box store products are often hung out to dry because they are the 47% of Americans locked into the very bottom rung of our society. But if you are like me, you don’t have to be “hung out to dry” to know what that would feel like.

*The Department of Health and Human Services sets poverty income levels.

This, Too, Is Obvious!
A “living wage” is a little better than minimum wage but there is still going to be single mothers, veterans, seniors, and just plain disadvantaged folks who won’t be able to support themselves. Right now
46 million Americans rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

As Bill Carnegie, President/CEO of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona wrote in his “From the President” article in this month’s Nourishing News, “I’ve heard the economy is improving, but it’s not apparent at the Community Food Bank. Did you know that more than 77,000 children are at risk of hunger in Southern Arizona? That’s up from 50,000 a couple of years ago.”

With the holidays fast approaching, there is even more urgency to donate food and cash to the food bank.

What the food bank most needs is pictured above. We may call it just basic stuff, but for those hungry kids and parents it is the stuff of life itself.

From One Can to One Community
Sunday, RenĂ©e and his wife Barbara, new One Can A Week participants, chased me down in their car and handed me a full paper shopping bag full of cans. A little later, Dan and his wife Therese left me an invitation taped to their can for a “Q & A Session” in their home with Ralph Ellinwood, a candidate running for the TUSD school board. Monday, Jamie called to ask me to include the Broadway Expansion Project in the next neighborhood meeting flyer.

Folks are great at getting involved; they just need something simple to get connected.

We collected a total of 246 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $13.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, October 1, 2012

195th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Making the Rounds in the Cabriolet


Dot Kret and I met with Mayor Jonathan Rothschild July 12th. On August 6th, less than a month later we made our first One Can A Meeting food pick up at PICOR. They donated 154 lbs.

It is just 53 days since the Mayor started handing out Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona food donation boxes, and in that short time we have picked up 618 lbs. of food from PICOR, The Mayor’s Office, The City Manager’s Office, Providence, Lewis and Roca and Skyview High School.

That much food can generate 475 meals (1.3 lbs. per meal) and feed 158 folks three meals in one day.

There are more organizations and firms in the Mayor’s One Can A Meeting program that will be adding their donations in the coming weeks. This is all found food which wouldn’t be on its way to the Food Bank if the Mayor hadn’t decided—in an instant that day in early July—to encourage lots of important folks to get involved just a little to help end hunger here in the city.


Photo by Molly Thrasher
Tiffany Kassel the teacher coordinating the One Can A Week program at The Miles School, called for another pickup this week. They had 84 lbs. and $5.00 in cash to donate. Last week there was over 60 lbs.

The surprising thing about this week’s donation is two huge bags of food were given to a Miles School family in trouble before I got there. The family already used up their monthly allotment at the Food Bank and there was still another week in September to go.

The kids knew about the family’s struggle and asked Tiffany if they could give them some of the food. She agreed because this was a terrific lesson in taking care of your friends and neighbors first. And then there’s the part about actually seeing what their own One Can A Week donation can do to help others.

The Miles School is celebrating its third One Can A Week anniversary this year. And it looks like the kids really understand what hunger is and that they have the power to do something about it.

Wait, That’s Too MuchArnold’s donation was not on the porch in the usual chair near the driveway but there were two stuffed Safeway shopping bags on the couch next to the front door. As I reached for the bags I paused a moment. “Nah, this is way more than he normal gives,” and I looked around again for his donation. Just then Arnold came out of the house and handed me a can.

“Good thing you came back,” I said, “I was about to take your dinner.”

He laughed but looked at me as if to say, “you would have never made it out of the driveway.”

We collected a total of 148 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $35.00, a $25.00 check and $10.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,