Monday, July 29, 2013

238th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
It’s Official

One Can A Week is now a weekly feature at the
Sprouts Farmers Market On Speedway and Swan.

This is a big deal because top management at Sprouts approved implementing One Can A Week as an ongoing community service program in one of their stores. Oh, and then there’s the fact that it’s a first for a major supermarket.

Sprouts Farmers Market operates more than 160 stores throughout Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. That’s very impressive and we couldn’t be more proud or honored.

Richard Rodriguez, the Sprouts store manager had an interest in One Can A Week since the Sunflower days so when I showed him a mockup of the display bin he finally let us in on his strategic thinking. He pointed to the photo at the top, the One Can A Week words in the middle and the Community Food Bank logo on the bottom. “This is us,” he said, “this is our program and this is who we will benefit. Perfect.”  
Richard is a professional manager who sees business as a solution to solving some of our social ills. Me, too. This is going to be good.

As I left after my 9 am to 1 pm stint on Saturday, Richard smiled and asked, “How did we do?” We collected $43.96. It took until Monday to come up with the number of pounds. There were 50.

Visual appeal is very important to Richard and his staff. That’s why the collection box we were using in the past was not working out. It even got trashed once. This time I decided to take a more creative approach, trying to compliment the story’s energy and d├ęcor.

What you see is a hamper from Target that is reinforced and weighted on the bottom. The can legs add even more bottom weight and a designer look. B-J Weld holds the cans fast to the wood base.

Cynthia and Chris at Signs Now created the trapezoid sign which is held in place by Velcro giving even more structure to the bin. 

Cynthia remarked that “I was thinking outside the box” when I created the food bin. I said no, I was “thinking outside the hamper.”

There is a natural tendency to hurry things up when those things are going well. One Can A Week is different. No matter how successful one day is, it is not a good idea to think about stringing together more days. Folks will tire of the idea. Even after 238 straight weeks, interest is still high in the neighborhood because people only have to think about One Can A Week for a minute or two each Sunday.

The idea is to match what is happening in the neighborhood to what can happen at Sprouts. The donation bin is always there and a person shows up every Saturday. That’s how much push there should be.

It’s going to be fun to watch One Can A Week sprout at Sprouts.

This point was apparent on the first Saturday when it only took two hours and 35 minutes for a can to be place on the table. There was no conversation, no instructions, just the banner sign on the table to motivate customers. Other food donations followed later in the morning.

The money basket worked the same way.

If someone had a question I talked to them. Otherwise all I did was smile and say hello to those who walked by and looked in my direction.

The One Can A Week label is positioned on the checkout stand in a subtle way.  It simply encourages Sprouts customers to donate to the Community Food Bank every time they shop.

Rosemary thought of placing the One Can A Week label on the checkout stand some time back but the Sunflower management didn’t like the idea. Now if she has time, she can tell her customers all about One Can A Week.

This hard working sticker has a double purpose. It helps customers identify “their Sprouts” as their partner in helping feed the hungry kids and parents in Tucson. Then it reminds them to act.

The old Sunflower sticker did not have the photo, just the words. In the short time it was up, it double the food donations. Can’t wait to see how effective this little guy will be. 

League of United Latin American Citizens Foundation
Helps Keep One Can A Week Going

Mary and Richard Fimbres are always asking me how things are going. They know I foot all of the expenses for One Can A Week and they have witnessed the transition from the declining Cabriolet to the truck.

A couple of months back they asked me to submit a grant request to the League of United Latin American Citizens Foundation (LULAC) explaining the operations of One Can A Week. I actually had forgotten I had done that for them.

Sunday they handed me a grant check. I was speechless which is something that doesn’t happen very often.

Now I can ready the truck for inspection in September. It needs two new oxygen sensors, a new water pump and an oil change. All of these maintenance fixes can be done now. What a relief.

My biggest worry is my truck breaking down. I’m toast if that happens. But now thanks to Mary and Richard and the LULAC grant, I can do the proper maintenance and have a little backup just in case something else goes wrong. I’m very touched by their thoughtfulness and generosity.   

Molly Thrasher Awarded an Owlie
for 1,000 YouTube Views

Molly Thrasher wrote and produced our wonderful One Can A Week video out of the goodness of her heart. She did it with a bunch of her own money and a healthy chunk of her time and talent, too. I told Molly a number of times how much I appreciated her work but I wanted say it in a more meaningful way.

The video was rapidly approaching the 1,000 views mark on YouTube which is terribly significant considering no marketing of any kind was ever done; i.e., except for word of mouth. Since I think Molly’s work is very intelligent I decided to create an award for her. While helping my friend John Gallow fix up a home he is selling, I saw this cute ceramic owl that was destined for the Goodwill and I asked him for it. John gladly gave it to me and the Owlie was born.

It’s a handsome little bird as the photo shows. When I brought the figurine home and showed it to Adam he thought it so life-like he immediately started to bark. He calmed down after I hid it in a cabinet.

The Owlie sits on Molly’s desk in her Ward 6 office and the certificate hangs on the wall. She called to tell me, so I guess she likes it. Now the question is where am I going to find a ceramic Eagle when there are 5,000 views?

Eighth Truck Load This Year – With the Miles Neighborhood holding steady at 170 lbs. on average per week, any other collections will help us reach the 300 lb. mark. Sprouts donated 50 lbs. and Ward 6, 74 lbs. adding up to a total of 298 lbs. this week.  

Thank you, LULAC
Right in the middle of preparing this news-packed post my Samsung monitor of many, many productive years turned everything a sickly green. For the past year it had been doing that but righted itself in a minute or so. Recently the monitor was blinking back and forth from okay to sickly green to okay. Right after lunch it turned green forever.

Following a moment of silence and a couple of pats on the frame, I stood up and raced out the door to Best Buy and purchased another Samsung monitor on sale for $139. I’m back in business and this update can go out on time. Thank you, again, LULAC.

We collected a total of 174 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $31.00, a $25.00 check and $6.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, July 22, 2013

237th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

This is why ...

John Unger and his friend Schoep
No one likes to be told he or she is unusual. Talented, creative, shy maybe, but not unusual. At the tail end of the Sam Hughes Neighbor Association meeting in late May, John O’Dowd said to me that “No one would do what you do and go around every Sunday to pick up cans to help feed the hungry. You are very unusual.”

Davis, my friend at the U of A attended the meeting with me and as we walked out the door he tried to console me a bit. “You were talking to the wrong people, they just don’t understand.”

Then who are the right kind of people? I thought. I couldn’t answer myself.

In August, 2012 I saw the above photo in a Huffington Post news story about an arthritic German shepherd mix named Schoep and his owner John Unger. John would take his pup to Lake Superior in Wisconsin and let the waters soothe his aching bones. In the process, Schoep often fell asleep in John’s arms.

A few weeks after Schoep celebrated his 20th birthday on June 15th—an amazing feat for any large dog—he passed away and The Huffington Post published that powerful Hannah Stonehouse photo of Schoep and John again.

As I just sat there and gazed at and then slowly studied the photo on my computer screen I realized why I do what I do to help feed folks. I care. For me, the photo captures the essence of that behavior and I guess is the reason I am so drawn to the image. Two creatures on this planet just trusting and giving a damn for each other.

When Robin, my little 10-year-old Westie, became sick with brain cancer, she could not stop roaming aimlessly. One day near the end I sat cross legged in the doorway of the back closet, her favorite den, and watched her pace. Eventually, she crawled up on my lap, collapsed and fell fast asleep.

It was physically awkward sitting there holding her but I dared not move for fear of waking her. This was the first restful sleep she had had in days. That was my Schoep and John moment. The discomfort was overwhelmed by the joy I felt soothing my little Robin. That’s the same peaceful joy I see in Schoep’s photograph.

This enlightening saga has taken more than a year to play out but I now know the “right kind of people” I should be talking to about One Can A Week. They will understand that when another creature’s needs become more important than their own needs, life will let them experience and feel the true joy of living on this planet.

Bananas and Other Good Things are Back
The world keeps shifting on Barbara Farragut, our 12th Street volunteer. A month ago the manager at her banana and fruit store changed. No matter, she simply waited for the right moment and asked the new person in charge to help.

Since January Barbara collected over 700 lbs. of produce. Of course, our canned and packaged goods are wonderful. However, add to that fresh fruit every week and our neighborhood donations become golden.

We collected a total of 183 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $34.00, a $25.00 check and $9.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, July 15, 2013

236th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
Congress: Bullies in the School Yard
Taking Kids' Breakfast and Lunch Money

Here are two indisputable facts.

On July 11, 2013 the government reported a budget surplus of $116.5 billion in June, the largest surplus in five years.

Seventy-one percent of the student population at Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) qualifies for the meal program. That’s the meal program congress took out of the Farm Bill just before they passed it. Now kids will go hungry. That, too, is a fact.

Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity in the country and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona encourage calling, emailing or writing senate or congressional representatives to tell them to pass the Food Stamp Bill so kids will not go hungry.

That won’t work because these elected grownups are using kids as hostages. “We see you want to feed hungry kids but we want cuts to women’s, seniors’ and disabled veterans’ health care programs. Oh, and by the way, major cuts to the school breakfast and lunch program, too.”

The game is incredibly unevolved and bordering on insanity.

The voters, the other grownups on the sidelines just can’t muster up any emotion or passion because they feel absolutely powerless in this situation. Nothing, not letters, not emails, not phone calls will budge these bullies. The bullies just laugh in the voters’ faces and schedule another fund raiser.

There is something that will work, however. All we need is one 11-year-old school kid with a video camera and a little social media savvy.  He or she turns the camera on and ask each kid, “What are you going to do when you can’t eat lunch at school any more?”

The reactions to the question will be intelligent, startling, heart wrenching and profound. Remember, kids always say the darndest things because they are no strangers to the truth. Then sprinkle throughout the video on a black screen some little known facts like “Just under half of the food stamp recipients are white.” Or “50 million folks are food insecure in America which is equal to the combined populations of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, KansasMaine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.”

All of the adults in this food stamp struggle, states, community food banks, schools, etc., are fresh out of ideas and when something provocative like getting kids to speak about the situation they are in, they (the adults) appear not to have the temerity to help kids pipe up their tiny little voices. After all, the kids have the most vested in this fight…their empty tummies. What bully could stand up to a kid who says, “Now, tell me again, why do you think it is a good idea to take my breakfast or lunch money away?”

No kid I know would back down from confronting a bully, because that is what they are being taught these days. Bullying is totally unacceptable.  But then why is it that adults shy away from strong, in your face ideas like helping their kids make a bold video statement about wanting a place at the table?

We’ve got some very old fashioned bullies in congress. It will take new fashioned ideas to embarrass them into becoming human beings again. Come on, let’s let our kids show us how. Give them a video camera and a class project: “Tell us what it’s like to be a hungry kid.”

The Word is Getting Out
Since September 11, 2012, the day Molly Thrasher published the One Can A Week video on YouTube, there have been 982 views. That means a fraction over three people from around the country are virtually walking through our neighborhood every day. Interesting.

We collected a total of 108 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $36.00, a $30.00 check and $6.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, July 8, 2013

235th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
Ron and Kelly Abbott Think of Others
Even When Big Trouble Comes Crashing
Through Their Roof

Barbara Farragut, the volunteer on 12th Street was just about to start another day of jury duty when she returned my phone call. It was 8:46 am Tuesday as I headed east and home on River Road after a no show for a food pickup. She said she would find out what happened at the bakery and get back to me. Barbara then asked if I have heard about the fire Monday at the Rincon Market.

I mostly read national news so no, I hadn’t. She said it was pretty bad and would force them to close for many months. Instead of going home I headed straight for the Rincon Market. Ron and Kelly have been very supportive of me and One Can A Week so I had to get there fast to see what I could do.

There are all kinds of ways to get into the Rincon Market parking lot. The turn I made off of Tucson Blvd. was unusual for me and I ended up in the back parking lot near the florist. There was Ron talking to a guy, the florist I supposed. I parked in the side parking lot as I always do and walked up to them. In a minute or two Ron ended his conversation and turned to me.

While waiting, I noticed the big storage like structure on the top of the Rincon Market roof. I had been in the back many times but never spotted that large building before. Walls were smashed down and the electrical stuff in there was exposed. “That’s where the fire started,” Ron said pointing to the roof.

We shook hands without speaking much as folks often do when there has been a tragedy and no one is sure what to say.

As we walked to the front of the store Ron calmly told me that he smelled smoke and told John, his son, to call 911. He then turned his attention to getting the 60 or so lunchtime customers and staff out of the smoke filled store. Ron’s voice was raspy and I asked his how he was feeling. “The thick smoke,” he said, “was and is toxic.”

Later in the day I checked out the AZStarnet and KVOA-TV news reports. They were very disturbing. Lots of smoke and flames and heat that even threatened the firefighters.
I always thought Ron was a cool customer and his reaction to this disaster proved it.

Near the yellow caution tape that blocked the entire front of the store, Ron said he was properly insured and had everything covered, lost income, property damage … everything. I thought it strange that here’s a man with a huge business problem speaking normally and at this very moment, I’m the one who felt concerned yet relieved hearing the insurance news.

More like a flashing beacon, the Food Bank collection jar at the main register was a constant reminder of the need and the responsibility we have to help the thousands of hungry kids and their parents here in Tucson
Just inside the front door that toxic smoke smell took over. It was everywhere even though all the doors were wide open. Water about a 1/4” deep covered the floor.

We ended up in front of the main cash register and Ron showed me the huge hole in the roof over the deli counter. He then reached over and handed me the Food Bank collection jar. “Here, take this,” he said with a chuckle, this is about as full as it will get for the next few months.”

Kelly, Ron’s wife and his son John, who were moving about the store when we came in, suddenly converged in front of the counter. “Wait a second, we have some more money in the office,” Kelly said. A customer told me the jars were a scam so I took them to the back until those people showed up again. They never did.”

“What money jars?” Ron asked. John echoed his dad. They had no idea what she was talking about.

Kelly dropped her purse and emptied an armload of stuff she was carrying on a nearby table. “You know, mom,” John said smiling, “those aren’t great shoes to be wearing today either.

“I know,” Kelly replied as she hurried to the back in her new white with pink trim aerobic walking shoes. I wondered what she wore yesterday that made John say something today.

In a couple of minutes, Kelly returned holding three melon-sized plastic jars, two with black lids and one with a red lid. Kelly remembered them now even in all this mess and destruction. She, too, is calm and clear headed in very stressful situations.

The rest of my Wednesday was filled with helping my friend Al take advantage of the 10% Senior Discount day at Fry’s. He’s not as mobile as he once was so I escort him while he gathers enough food to feed himself and a dozen or so cats for a month. All the while I am thinking about counting the money in those four collection jars.

We head down the can goods aisle and I saw two huge stacks of the Van Camp Pork and Beans that were on sale a week ago. (Those are the same cans Maen at the Axis Food Mart bought.) They can’t still be on sale, can they? I thought. When I got closer I saw the sign … 2 for $1.00. And there were over 18 24-can cases.

The Rincon Market was responsible for creating the seventh truck load this year. 
Around 11:30 pm Wednesday I finally wrapped and counted all the bills and coins. The total was $197.50. That would buy 395 cans weighing in at 420 lbs. The excitement quickly died down when I realized tomorrow was the 4th of July and banks are closed. How am I going to exchange the coins for bills? Turns out I didn’t need that step.

Fry’s parking lot on 22nd and Alvernon was busy and folks were hurrying in all directions.

Undaunted I walked in and found the manager conveniently talking to Daniel the assistant manager in the bakery department up front. I explained what I needed and who for and the manager told Daniel to take care of it.

Within a few minutes he had a flat bed cart next to the stack and started loading the Van Camp. I said, “I’ll be back in a minute. I have to go get the money.”

A woman maybe twenty feet down the aisle pushing a cart with a kid in the seat called out, “Oh, don’t forget to get enough for me,” she said while holding her index finger up in the air as a visual reminder.

I hustled and smiled all the way to the truck.

The cashier at the customer service window heard me tell Daniel about the situation at the Rincon Market while he rang up the sale. When she opened the bag and took out the cash she said, “Smell this.” She held the money under Daniel’s nose, “It smells like barbeque.” Proof positive … there really was a fire.

Everyone I talk to about the Rincon Market asks, “They’re going to rebuild I hope? I just love that place.”

Ron and Kelly will rebuild they told me so. All we have to do is wait and than give them twice and much business when they announce their Grand Reopening.

It’s scary when you think you are going to loose something very valuable like the Rincon Market. It’s more than culture, it’s more than tradition … it a place were everyone has a very strong sense of belonging.

Just Packaged Goods
This week we had no produce which, coincidently, not only rounds out a good diet but our food cart photo as well. Barbara says next week we’re going to bring back the fresh stuff.

We collected a total of 112 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $31.57, a $25.00 check and $6.57 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

234th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

SPECIAL NOTE: There was a power outage in the Miles Neighborhood yesterday for nearly six hours. Consequently, this update was put together by the light of an LED flashlight and a battery powered laptop. When the lights came back on at 12:17 am and then off again and then finally on for good at 12:30 am, I was out of power myself and went to bed. So that’s my story for being tardy this morning and I am sticking to it.

Think About This Amazing Statistic
The Miles Neighborhood Donated Over 3 Tons of Food
On Average in the First Two Quarters
for the Past Five Years.

Neighbors move in, neighbors move out and the economy is still not doing well, but yet the Mile Neighborhood doesn’t skip a beat when it comes to feeding hungry kids and their parents. Study the figures for a moment and then go thank everyone in your family for keeping the momentum going weekly for four and one half years. That’s amazing, too.

And if you think about it the next time you visit the Axis Food Mart, thank Maen for running a wonderfully generous and helpful neighborhood store.

In the 2013 Second Quarter Report,
food donations are stable
but the dollars are down a bit.
It’s still all good.

Number Six This Year
We had another stuffed pickup truck this week. Most of the credit goes to the Axis Food Mart this time. With $81 from the food bank coffee tin, Maen purchased 162 cans of Van Camp baked beans weighing in at 152 lbs. See stack on the right.

Even More Changes
Barbara on 12th Street not only had the bakery close on her, there’s a new manager at the banana store who will need a little charming to come on board. Give her a week or two and we’ll be knee deep in cookies and fruit again.

We collected a total of 285 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $56.00, two $25.00 checks and $6.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,