Monday, April 30, 2012

173rd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
One Can A Week Works Like a Charm
When Organized As Designed

Ask 100% of the neighbors; get at least 50% participation.

Undergraduate Research Day at Concord University, Athens, West Virginia where our One Can A Week program was implemented and the results studied by a political science class. Left: Crystal Jones, Kurtis White, Jessica Fowler, Anthony Heltzel, Tabatha Whited (in the back), Emily Fridenmaker and Ivan Deyanov. Not pictured: Brooke Bailey, Alex Collins and instructor Jim White).
What started as a political science class assignment for Emily Fridenmaker at Concord University turned out to confirm that One Can A Week not only feeds lots of needy folks, it also builds a sense of community at the same time. The first person to recognize this phenomenon was Brett Weisel at He called just to give me that incite in 2009. My goal was to collect food for needy families in Tucson but learning about the other ramifications of the program encouraged me even more.

Based on Emily’s findings, we know for sure that organizing One Can A Week as designed, generates similar results in other neighborhoods around the country. (I use the phrase “as designed” to mean personal contact with each and every neighbor and then weekly contact with each participant. Others have tried variations of the program such as having neighbors drop off food but those modifications are not sustainable. When participants are required to do more than just place a can or two on their porches each Sunday they loose interest in the program.)

Last Wednesday I received an email from Emily that included three terrific photos and the following:

“I just wanted to update you on our project as we are wrapping it up. We presented the program at our Undergraduate Research Day last week…

“We have collected almost 900 pounds of food (we have 2 weeks before graduation, and I'm predicting that we will hit 1000 before we are done!) and our Lions' Club is all set to take over the project and keep the program going indefinitely.”

I asked Emily to send me an Executive Summary of her findings so when I did not hear back from her I took that to mean, “Enlarge the photos and read the boards, dummy.”

Below is Emily’s and her team’s method and assessment of their project.

Close-up of the Results section in the Concord University student’s display.
A list of participants from the Athens neighborhood was compiled. Each household was called every Saturday as a reminder. The neighborhood was split into three separate routes, and every Sunday two people collected the food from the porches along their assigned route. Flyers were left at each house notifying the participant that the food had been picked up. The food was weighed and the amounts were recorded. All food was then taken to the Bluefield Union Mission in Bluefield, WV.

“Figure 1 – Food was collected and weighed each week. The amount collected stabilized around 140 pounds of food. The number of households participating was also recorded each week. This number varies greatly week to week and is largely influenced by weather and holidays."

(NOTE: We experience no difference in amounts collected in the Miles neighborhood during bad weather or on holidays. And most folks participate week after week. These two variations between cities may be due to our very consistent pickup schedule.)

A photo of the gigantic three-panel display created by the
student poly-sci team at Concord University.
“Figure 2 – The participation rate has dropped to approximately 50% of the initial participants. The Athens community has participated at a rate of 15% - 20%.

“Figure 3 – While some households did not participate at all after agreeing to be placed on our contact list, most participate 3, 4 and 5 our of 5 weeks."

(NOTE: With respect to our 50% participation, we have had a few opt out but we replaced many as new neighbors move into the Miles neighborhood.)

“Figure 4 – Few households donate only one can per week. The pounds per household average was consistent at 2.5 -3 pounds."

(NOTE: A majority of participants in the Miles neighborhood also donate more than one food item per week.)

A two-tailed t-test showed that the difference in giving between Tucson, Arizona and Athens, West Virginia is not statistically significant.”

(NOTE: A two-tailed t-test is a statistical tool based on either end of a bell curve. If you want to read something where you understand the meaning of every word written but you have no idea of what they speak, click on the link above.)

“Because of this, we accepted the null hypothesis and concluded that there is no difference between One Can A Week donation is Athens, West Virginia and in Tucson, Arizona. This similarity is likely due to the similarities in the two neighborhoods, specifically the population sizes, median incomes and ages and the fact that they are both university towns.”

What I found thrilling with Emily’s program was that many participants gave more than one can a week (Figure 4), there was consistent participation (Figure 4) and the participation rate was approximately 50% (Figure 2). We in the Miles neighborhood experience the same rate which is high for any community project.

The only suggestion I would make to Emily and any others who may want to initiate a One Can A Week program is don’t call because that’s a bit irritating. Friends, family and sales people call on the phone. Guess which one they consider you?

Just knock on the door each week and build a relationship. That is so much better.

Big “Sorry We Missed You” Week
Lots of folks took to the street, the pools and the sunshine Sunday. And those who were home, lost track of time and forgot to put their donation out. No matter, we still collected 24 lbs. under our average and with so many Sorry cards hanging on the front door, next Sunday is going to be nothing short of great. Guilt is a wonderful thing, sometimes.

We collected a total of 144 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $7.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 23, 2012

172nd Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
The Magnificent Volunteer and Her
Walking Machine

(Not unlike The Magnificent Men and Their
Flying Machines but more down to earth.)
A small piece of history was made Sunday when Steve Fuhrig gave his wife an electric walking wagon with a stunningly huge umbrella. No longer will Kym have to carry 4 bottles of water, wear a large floppy hat and squint as she picks up her Sunday One Can A Week donation in the hot desert sun.

On a number of occasions Kym looked a bit overwhelmed by the heat and the workout she gets dragging that loaded yellow wagon slowly behind her. (Her two young grand daughters riding in the wagon along with the food doesn’t help the situation much either.)

But today Kym was next to perky, dry and smiling. It was apparent her new eco-approved electric walking wagon brought some of the fun back into collecting her donations. And it brought back her happy face on a very hot Sunday.

Why is an electrified walking wagon a tiny historic event? Simple. It’s funny, clever and lots of neighbors will want to take it for a walk. This gives our One Can A Week food donation program the kind of attention it deserves

“Hello and A Request”

Go to blog
Surprise emails really make my day. I can’t wait for the next one, but in the meantime I’ll tell you about the email I got last Wednesday evening just before dinner. The subject line put me on guard because it appeared to be a little vague like spam stuff but as soon as I saw who it was from I hurriedly clicked it open.

Sandy Scott is the Acting Director of Public Affairs and Senior Communications Advisor for the Corporation for National and Community Services. That’s Senior Corps and AmeriCorps. That’s Washington, DC. I almost thought I should stand up to read his email. But I didn’t.

“Greetings Peter –

“It’s been a while since we’ve been in touch. I want you to know I read your updates every week. It is inspiring to see the impact of your effort, both in the Miles neighborhood and the similar efforts you have inspired across the country. You’re a great story teller, and your efforts are making a difference for hungry families in Tucson.

“As you probably know, this is National Volunteer Week (April 15-21), a time to recognize and celebrate the nation’s volunteers. Here is a Presidential proclamation and a White House blogpost from our new CEO Wendy Spencer, a lifelong volunteer and volunteer manager.

“As part of National Volunteer Week, we would like to invite you to submit a guest blog post for our National Service blog at This can be 400-500 words, and should recount how you started One Can a Week, include your results to date (pounds of food and cash raised), something on how the idea has spread, and any observations about how one person can make a difference.

“In order to fit this in during National Volunteer Week, we would love to have it by the end of the day tomorrow, if possible, or Thursday morning. I know you are a strong writer, and have written extensively on One Can a Week, so hopefully this won’t be a heavy lift.”

Well, that made me nervous. I had dinner took the dogs for a walk and sat down to write. Sandy’s instructions were soexplicit I finished about 9 and sent the blog off with several photos. Then I got more nervous waiting to hear back.

Thursday evening I received another email saying he liked the piece but wanted to make some changes. That was fine with me. But instead of waiting for the suggestions I told him he should make the revisions he wanted to comply with the web site’s style and formatting. I’m not married to my words, just One Can A Week. They’re professional editors so I just stepped out of the way.

Late afternoon on Friday, Sandy contacted me again.

“Peter – Your blog post is up. You can access it on and the direct link is here:

“Your story is a powerful reminder of what one person or one small group of people can accomplish when they stand up and make a difference. Thank you for your service, and keep up the great work.

“Have a great weekend



Right now there are 26 Likes, 11 Tweets and 0 Share for our One Can A Week post. If we could get just one new neighborhood somewhere in the country collecting food for needy families in their community it would be well worth all the hurry up and jangled nerves.

Everybody’s Back
Two weeks ago the Sunflower Farmers Market on Swan and Speedway started collecting food again. Maria in the Catalina Vista Neighborhood discovered the Food Bank closes at 5 pm, but her ride can’t make it before then. Maybe when she gets her driver’s license, she can take control of her deliveries. Until then, I’ll drop off all 4 donations (Rincon Market, Sunflower, Catalina and Miles) on Monday. This week the combined weight was 390 lbs. Nice.

We collected a total of 168 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $59.50, a $50.00 check and $9.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 16, 2012

171st Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
One Can A Week At The Movies
Bill deserves top billing even though he did not ask for it.

The Cabrio and the Caballero who started it all.

Without much ado, Molly Thrasher, videographer for Try Freedom sent a rough cut of her One Can A Week documentary to me and Emily Fridenmaker who requested the footage for presentation she and her classmates were making to the Lion’s Club in Concord, West Virginia.

The deadline was tight but Molly came through early and allows us to see a preview of her gentle and emotionally powerful style. She encourages her characters to say their impromptu lines as if they are telling a story that just happened yesterday. All of the images are so darn fresh and sincere. Bill Carnegie, CEO of the Community Food Bank, describes how he was introduced to One Can A Week and although it’s been three years, he remembers all of his thoughts and reactions to this simple idea.

It’s now 8:30 pm Monday night and Emily just sent me an email recounting her presentation to the Lion’s Club earlier today.

“Our presentation went great! The video was really fantastic, we so appreciate you guys putting that together. We have collected almost 750 pounds of food in the past 5 weeks, and it looks like the program is going to continue through the Lion's Club after we graduate in May. Thank you again for all of your help!


Below is a brief description on how to link to the rough cut of Molly’s One Can A Week video. If this 2 minute video is any indication of what the final documentary will portray, we are in for a wonderful ride.

The link will bring you to a page on YouSendIt and a download button. DOWNLOAD One Can A Week video.

The dialog box that opens allows you to immediately Run the video or Save it to your hard drive. You may want to Save the video to your Desktop to review later with family and friends.

SPECIAL NOTE: The video is a .mov file. If your media player cannot play the file, just download QuickTime 7 for PC or Mac. It’s an Apple product so it is very safe.

Do Not Turn Off the Cereal, Fruit and Peanut Butter Machines
Summer is upon us and hungry kids will soon not have their schools to turn to for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And with the Community Food Bank experiencing cuts from all its food sources those kids are heading for trouble.

Spread the word and see if you can encourage all you family and friends to help us meet the demand.

We collected a total of 170 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $31.50, a $25.00 check and $6.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 9, 2012

170th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
A Positive One Can A Week Week

Concord University in Athens, W. VA.
On March 12th I received an email from a college student in West Virginia.

“My name is Emily and I attend a college in a small town called Athens in southern West Virginia. I am in a political science class this semester and we are trying to implement a One Can A Week program in the town.”

That day I sent Emily a bunch of information and then forgot about it. Friday I got another email from Emily.

“We have implemented the program and have collected food for the past 3 weeks. We have about 90 regular participants and we have collected almost 500 pounds of food in all.

“We are presenting our program to our local Lion’s club in a week so that they can continue the project once we have graduated in May, and we were wondering if you guys had any videos that we could present to them.”

The Lion’s Club holds its biweekly meetings in the Concord
United Methodist Church in Athens. On Monday, April 16th,
Emily and her classmates will present their One Can A Week
program to the club and hopefully the members will pick
up the gauntlet.
We don’t have a video at this time, but we (meaning Molly and her crew) are working very diligently on one so I brought her into the email loop. Molly responded to Emily in a heartbeat.

Hi Emily,

Thanks for your interest in One Can A Week. It has become an issue near and dear to my heart as well.

I'm afraid that is not very much time for me to put a rough cut together. I am still shooting the interviews and have not even gone through my existing footage. I will try to get you a short clip of Peter's interview and the director of the Food Bank. At least that way you can have something to show, but it will not be a complete overview and it will be very rudimentary.

I hope the meeting will be a success for you. Good luck. I'll be in touch.


Email is so great especially when dealing with pros. Molly got right back to Emily and will have something ready for the April 16th meeting. But what impressed me most was Molly’s comment that One Can A Week is “near and dear to her heart.” It is one thing to have a documentarian to tell your story but quite another to have such a pro on your side. We’re quite lucky and I have to say, I’m quite grateful.

A Little Box With A Big Job 

New, Rosemary designed Community Food Bank collection box at the
Sunflower Farmers Market on Speedway and Swan.
Rosemary Chacon, the Events/Marketing coordinator at the Speedway Sunflower Farmers Market wasn’t kidding those many months ago when she said she loves helping the Community Food Bank and will bring back the collection box as soon as possible. On Tuesday, I got her anticipated email.

“Hi Peter,
It seems like it has been a long time since we’ve touched base, I know that I have been extra busy as I’m sure you have been also.

I have a full box of food items in the box up front for you when you get a chance to come this way.

Have a good day and I’ll see you soon,

Rosemary “

In keeping with Rosemary’s strategy, the box is small and attractive. Also it is in a very high traffic area where customers see it coming and going.

The first pickup the next day netted 76 lbs. and Saturday’s pickup amounted to 6 lbs. That’s 86 lbs in one week.

Welcome back, Rosemary, we really did miss you.

Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood

San Pedro Chapel and neighborhood association meeting place.
Recently retired Frank Flasch has been building a One Can A Week program in his neighborhood. It’s especially challenging since there are three Home Owner Associations to organize.

Frank’s email last week describes the task before him coordinating several gated communities at once.

“For the month of March, 3 HOA's have contributed to the One can a week = Four Cans per month program, over 110 lbs of foods

Those 3 HOA include the Fort Lowell Estates, La Sonrisa and Orchard River.

“As you know the food bank is in constant need of food. So please if at all possible contribute to this program. I would be glad to meet with each of the HOA groups to explain the details of the program and help each of (the) HOA's create a champion to carry the program on in your area.”

The best advice I can offer Frank is never go away. Neighbors like that kind of behavior when it comes to helping them learn to get and stay involved in community service.

The One Can A Week Plate Poster
Just Published
It’s a sure thing, all of the neighbors in the Miles Neighborhood will receive a glossy

11" x 17" plate poster. What is not so sure is the timing of delivery to your front door. It’s
a budgetary thing.

Outstanding Food
The parking area leading to the Community Food Bank warehouse docks was just resurfaced and now the food really stands out in the shopping cart. No more grey cracks and bumps in the background.

We collected a total of 198 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $55.81, a $50.00 check and $5.81 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 2, 2012

169th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Focus Hath Charm…

"...we just live together."
“Call me back on your other phone, John suggested, “this will take awhile.”

Whenever possible, early Saturday afternoon is naptime. So I was almost perky when my client and friend called at 4 pm with a computer question. And getting to use my $1.66 a month MagicJack computer phone instead of that minute-by-minute money-gobbling cell phone lifted my spirits even more.

John is always fun to work for and with but today I could hear a special sense of commitment in his voice. He wasn’t giving up so easily in our game of trying to help an inexperienced pilot land a Piper Cub over the phone. He executed every move I suggested with no mini mutterings and no mistakes. In five or six tries and a couple of reboots, we figured out how to open the new program on his new Mac Book Air.

Blackberry and PC is where John started when he began his business. Over time he switched to the iPhone then iPad and recently Mac Air. It is his well thought out strategic plan to “synchronize” all of his business tools, but more important, he is taking ownership of his idea to heart.

That’s probably what I felt. John is into his technology now and not frustrated with machine idiosyncrasies as in the past. He is tech focused and it is his will to be so.

I was a bit euphoric when I hung up because I remembered my own focus epiphany and how great it felt to understand something so critical in life. Of course, my journey was more like a dune buggy ride on the Baja 1000 Off Trail road race, than a smooth Piper Cub landing.

The last few weeks of my Army tour in Germany I began to experience some awful feelings even once coming close to passing out in a restaurant. I shook it off and concentrated on my pending release stateside. Back at my job in St. Louis those feelings returned with a vengeance and I learned they were anxiety and panic attacks. I was depressed which I also learned runs in my family. Not heart attacks, although my mother died of one, or cancer or common diseases like that. We get depressed and live longer than most, suffering all the way.

Since college I wasn’t terribly successful working in the corporate world which probably was the cause of my lower than dirt self esteem. Those suicidal thoughts hurt and scared me half to death.

Then one morning about 6 months into my depression, I had the first of my two life altering epiphanies. I was behind the wheel of my green Beetle on my way to work when I realized “I could not think of anything else.” I said that out loud I remember. Your mind is racing and thinking of a gazillion things but they are all on one subject, your feeling of worthlessness.

My next thought was to do something fun but difficult to get my mind working again. I was a musician playing bass in local jazz bands so I decided to teach myself guitar. That night I bought a $30 Alvarez guitar and a simple classical guitar songbook.

Right after dinner at 6 pm I sat down to play and didn’t move from that chair until midnight. I did that every night for two straight weeks.

The first 12 hours were spent learning to play two bars of quarter notes correctly. The struggle in my brain to coordinate tempo, picking and fingering was herculean. Eight notes and I couldn’t get it right.

At the end of two weeks I realized I had been undepressed for one week. I went right by the depression and did not even notice. Than, too, I could play any number of Etudes in that songbook. Welcome back self-esteem.

That was my second epiphany. Focus was my issue and now focus was my friend along side that wonderful guitar. It’s the first thing I pack when I move and it has never left my sight since that first night. I don’t play the guitar any more, we just live together.

In Tucson, before 9/11, I used my experience in defeating depression to help a few TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) patients. One in particular, Sally (not her real name) was having a terrible time finding a job. In school she was quite a basketball player so I suggested for her mental/physical project she dribble a basketball everywhere she walked, which was most places since she did not have a driver’s license. Focus is the only thing you can do dribbling a basketball or you are chasing after it a lot.

She thought the task was so much fun and again within a few weeks, her smile inflated. The first job she interviewed for ended with a call back even before she made it home. That message on her machine was the best news she had had in years.

People often ask me when I might give up One Can A Week. Perhaps now after reading this update they will understand that focusing on consistently feeding the hungry is an integral part of my being. So never.

Biggest Box of Cereal Ever
If you are wondering how many kids 10 lbs. of cereal can feed, wonder no more. The answer is 110. That huge box of Quaker Oats in the upper left hand corner of the cart says it can fill 110 plus hungry tummies. Sounds reasonable since tummies, like cereal boxes, come in different sizes, too.

We collected a total of 178 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $34.50, a $25.00 check and $9.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,