Monday, April 28, 2014

277th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks
Convenience Store Man
Cleans Up Neighborhood
One Thug at a Time

The thug threw a sucker punch (red arrow) that altered his life 1.5 seconds later.
A little over five years ago I met Maen Mdanat the new owner of the convenience store in our neighborhood. He walked across his parking lot to greet me as I approached and right away I could tell he was a good guy. It was just a gut reaction then but time proved it to be dead on. Within minutes I learned that he cared about his new neighbors and wanted to become active in the One Can A Week program.

As with most convenient stores there was a lot of riffraff hanging out, drinking and sleeping in the nearby alleys. Panhandling was rampant also. I asked my new friend if he could help clean up our neighborhood and keep those folks in line. Maen said “Yes,” without any hesitation.

His initial motivation was to make his new venture a family store. In the beginning he had mostly male customers and very few women because the premises did not appear to be safe with all matter of unkempt folks loitering around the “watering hole” as it were. Today, women are among his best customers.

So how did he do it? Well, Maen’s first career was in the Army’s Special Forces unit. This unique training is a key factor in the reshaping of our neighborhood where peace and civility is the norm. Through his ability to sense trouble early, heft a 170 pound beer key by himself and react quicker than congress can say no, he was able to demand respect for himself and his customers.

He kept order and discipline in his store and those who did not comply were dealt with by the police or he handled the situation himself. He ejected the unruly from his premises, the alleys and the whole neighborhood. As you can imagine the families in the neighborhood are extremely grateful for the security he provides and they crowd his store daily.

But he has to be vigilant even now after all this time because convenient stores are easy targets. Unfortunately, the word has not gotten around to all of the unsavory people that our neighborhood is different. Thugs are the target not the convenience store.

Last Saturday a man walked into the store and began mumbling something to Doug the clerk behind the counter at the time. He said he had no money but wanted something. Maen who was in his office saw the exchange on his monitor and came out to see what was up. Maen recognized the man was trouble and offered to walk him to the door. As the man got close to Maen holding the door open he made a fateful error that would alter his well being in the next second and a half. He sucker punched Maen. Go to the video tape … Convenience Store Man in action.

All of this melodrama was captured on the store’s video surveillance cameras. A few days after viewing the footage I decided it was high time to go public and tell the real story behind how Maen helped make out Miles Neighborhood safer. But a straight news story is boring even with all of the action and would not be memorable. So enter the Convenience Store Man comic book saga.

Old and young customers alike have viewed the video at the Axis Food Mart and their reactions were quite similar. They cringe a bit at the crash landing and smack down but are delighted a thug got what was coming to him. Several folks questioned Maen’s decision because retaliation is always a possibility. He has no concern for such things. In Maen’s experience, if there is any thought of retaliation, it is in the mind of the bully who just suffered great humiliation and pain. “Why would he come back to experience that devastation again? Maen asked. “Or maybe something even worse. Bullies are cowards at heart.” 

We Love You …
Convenience Store Man

Look for the further adventures of the


Sprouts Farmers Market Update
Since July 29, 2013 Sprouts has donated 4.45 tons of quality food.

Over 1,000 Pounds Three Weeks in a Row

What pushed the poundage this week was the new One Can A Week display (right of the table under the arrow) at the Sprouts – Oracle store. The display was looking pretty picked over on Wednesday and the
donation bin was full (left of table). Throw in 444 lbs. of watermelons still sale priced at 10 cents per pound (see carts on far left), the 84 lbs. in the bin and you end up with 714 lbs. of food. That is about 72% of the donations this week … just from one 4-hour stint.

When the display gets built in the Sprouts-River Road store next month, the donations should take another giant leap.  

This week’s donations amounted to 1,146 lbs. and included River View Estates, 30 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 238 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 528 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 186 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 164 lbs.

Neighborhood Clean Up in Early May
Every year the city provides eight roll off trash bins FREE to the Miles Neighborhood to help folks get rid of more than brush and bulky stuff. Beginning on May 8th and ending early May 12th, five roll off trash bins will be placed in an open public space near the following addresses.

1.  1208 E. 12th Street
2.  1527 E. 12th Street
3.  404 S. Cherry Street
4.  1808 E. 12th Street
5.  1229 E. 13th Street

Start selecting items such as mattresses and dressers and TVs. Also this is a great way to get rid of all that brush and tree trimmings you piled up this spring.

A printed reminder will be distributed to homes on Sunday, May 4th. Keep and eye out for it.

We collected a total of 164 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $153.00, two checks for $125.00 and $28.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 21, 2014

276th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
This Week in Photos
Sprouts on Oracle (left) and Sprouts on Speedway displaying baskets of watermelons.
Fun Food
Sprouts’ Flyer featured a great special this week. Personal sized and flavor-packed watermelons for only 10 cents a pound. Although the announcement was emblazoned across the top of the flyer just under the header, I didn’t see it. My eye perceived the header as just a bit bigger this week. Consequently after my stint at Sprouts – Oracle on Wednesday I purchased 104 lbs. of potatoes. (See first Truck Load below.)

What did get my attention at Sprouts – River Road the next day was a huge bin of watermelons on a hand forklift maneuvering through the automatic doors as I approached. When I stopped to let the store clerk pass I noticed the 10 cents per pound sign on the side of the bin. I then checked the flyer again and sure enough there is was. 

                                     All the Props in Place 
As I was deciding to purchase the watermelons I realized hungry folks seldom experience food for the fun of it. Hunger is just so serious. Then I thought about the size, the temperature outside and spring is here. Yep, these Sprouts watermelons are going to the Community Food Bank. For a little over $60 I purchased over 600 lbs. of smile inducing watermelons for folks who dine regularly at soup kitchens all over town … old ladies on social security, families, homeless vets and kids. Now that makes me smile. How about you?

On Wednesday, Michael McDonald, the new Community Food Bank CEO met with Richard Rodriguez, Sprouts – Oracle Store Director and me. And we were ready for Michael with a brand new display giving customers the option of quickly snatching up cans of tuna or beans while moving through the checkout line. Also the food bin had a spiffed up sign with no coffee stains on it. (In the beginning customers often think the bin is for trash until they read the sign.)

We talked for about 40 minutes and Michael was most impressed with the transparency of the One Can A Week program which is supported by weekly Community Food Bank donation receipts and Sprouts Farmers Market cash register receipts.

What impressed Richard and me the most is Michael took the time out of his very busy schedule to learn about our “everybody wins” community service program.  

Sprouts Farmers Market Update
One Can A Week has been in operation at Sprouts for a little under 8 months and we have collected 7,963 lbs. of food. Next week we will cross the four tons mark. Since all the food was purchased and then donated, that makes us all proud and generous capitalists.

Over 1,000 lbs. Again This Week

13th Truck Load - 2014
All this Sprouts shopping experience is making me a better shopper for myself. The $102.41 cash donation Sprouts customers pitched in the wicker basket this week netted 878 pounds of high quality food. That comes out to 12 cents a pound (rounded up). What I am doing is looking for low prices in a super quality supermarket and when I find something that might qualify, I ask myself, “Is it nutritious and would it be fun to eat?” When I get a yes to my questions I load up the shopping cart. That’s fun, too.

On my side of the equation, I’m buying more fruits and vegetables and wonderful tasting stuff like bacon on sale. I’m getting more variety and surprise, surprise the pounds pushing my belt from the inside are sliding away. Oh, and my food budget is shrinking, too.

Here’s an idea. How about going to Sprouts, take $10 out of your wallet and choose something low priced and delicious. Or get the $10 to me and I’ll do it for you. Of course, you know I’ll keep records on my records.

I like this idea better than trying to live on the $4.25 daily food stamp allotment. That’s supposed to teach folks of means what it’s like to be hungry every day. How about taking that $30 a week and go shopping at Sprouts for the hungry kids. You’ll feel better not starving yourself for a week while helping so many Americans “Have a Nicer Day.”  

This week’s donations amounted to 1,068 lbs. and included River View Estates, 22 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 430 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 124 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 324 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 168 lbs.

Mapping of the Meal Gap
Feeding America has received the funding to map the level of food insecurity in each of the 3,000 plus counties in the United States. This brings the message home to local communities that hunger is everywhere, even just next door. Here is the Map the Meal Gap link.

The map is interactive. Just slide your mouse over the counties to discover the awful truth. In Pima County the child food insecurity rate is 25.9%. This means that when you see four kids on the playground, one isn’t really having any fun at all.

We collected a total of 168 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $36.00 a $25.00 check and $11.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 14, 2014

275th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,
It's Always a Stand Up Job
When You Help Folks Help

The cute little girl with the pink headband and the pink outfit had little interest in waiting in the checkout line with her mother. She was maybe four-years-old and was ready to move out at any given moment. Her mother was used to her impatience and wanderlust so she initiated subtle course corrections with her hand or a soft spoken word all the while guiding her groceries down the conveyor belt toward the cashier. The mother was a professional multitasker for sure.

This slow motion shopping ballet happened in the checkout line directly in front of my display table so I saw all of the intricate patterns and moves. As the cashier tallied the sale, the woman took out her wallet and then a credit card. She held her wallet for a moment while her daughter stepped into the aisle to wait, looking longingly at the front entrance. Her mother pulled a single bill out of her wallet and folded it in half as it emerged. She then called her daughter a couple of time to get her attention. “Please come her,” she calmly said, “I want you to do something for me.”

With a bit of reluctance the little pink tyke walked back to her mother who handed her the bill and told her to put it in the basket. She palmed the bill as her mother had so even in her tiny hand the denomination was not visible. The bill was flipped to the back of the basket where I got my first glimpse. My adrenaline caused a shockwave to race through my body. A $100 bill. “Really?” I said in disbelief looking directly into the woman eyes. She just nodded and smiled as she pushed the cart, daughter in hand toward the entrance.

“Google One Can A Week on Tuesday,” I said, “I am going to write about this.”

“Don’t write about us,” she replied turning back to look at me.

“No, I’m going to write about my shock and reaction to your gift.”

She smiled and continued walking.

The bill sat in the basket as shown in the photo above for many, many minutes. I wanted Carrie Williams, the assistant manager to see it. She was busy so it took her nearly 45 minutes to return to the front of the store. I kept checking half of Ben Franklin’s face every few minutes to make sure he was still there. Eventually I covered up the image with a dollar bill just to be safe.

When Carrie arrived I showed her the bill. She was just as surprised as I was. “Did you ask the customer if she had made a mistake?”

“Really?” is what I said to her,” I replied. “The customer nodded yes.”


We talked more for a minute or so and I told her about a volunteer tryout earlier in the morning. The volunteer came in and immediately pulled out a stool from under the counter behind the display table and sat down. As gently as I could I told her that One Can A Week is a stand up job because we have to show we are very interested in our program all of the time. The volunteer said she had a medical condition and could not stand for four hours. Right away I told her I would think of something else for her to do.

She did not agree with my strategy, however, and mentioned all she had to do was smile. I told her that would not do and gave her an example of walking down a row of booths at a street fair. “People are more comfortable walking up to a person standing at the front of the booth and often pass those merchants who are working with their head down, reading a book or otherwise occupied.”

The volunteer slid off the stool and walked through the automatic doors muttering, “That is the craziest thing I ever heard.”
Carrie’s response to my story was immediate. “You must be engaged at all times,” she began. “That is the best customer service and we pride ourselves on being engaged. I tell our team members, no slouching, no leaning on things, do something and be ready for the next customer.” She paused a moment and then asked a few hypothetical manager questions, “What about that $100 bill? Would she ask the customer if there were a mistake? Would she take that bill? After all, no one is watching or checking.”

Carrie was called away and I stood there for some time just thinking about our conversation. I felt better after the rejection from the tryout volunteer because Sprouts Farmer’s Market is the perfect place for One Can A Week. They stand up and look out for all of their customers, too.

This is How Much a $100 Bill Creates
Potatoes, String Beans, Strawberries and more Potatoes
When the $100 bill dropped into the wicker basket there were only a half dozen $1 bills to keep it company. But after the word got out to all of the cashiers, the excitement began to bubble over. James, The Megaphone, as I affectionately call him, mentioned One Can A Week to lots of customers as they came through his line. James is well liked and his regular customers often follow his lead. At the end of my stint, we collected a total of $159.08. This is another Sprouts-River Road record.

The $159.08 purchased 310 lbs. of potatoes, 28 lbs. of fresh string beans and 22 lbs. of very tasty strawberries. With a total weight of 360 lbs., the average cost per pound was 0.79 cents. In the past when I purchased cans of beans, not fresh produce, the $159.08 would have netted 167 lbs. of black beans at 0.89 cents per can.

Not only can we buy a lot more fresh produce, we feed hundreds of kids and older women and men almost immediately. The fresh produce I deliver in the morning is shipped out to church and agency kitchens in the afternoon.

While at the Community Food Bank Friday morning I spoke to Jacob Coldsmith, the Logistics Manager and he said it would be great to see a photo of all those produce filled shopping carts in a row. He was right and lucky for me I took that very photo during all of the excitement at Sprouts the day before. Thanks, Jacob, for giving me the idea to share that excitement with everyone else.

Sprouts Farmers Market Update

1,112 Pounds
So much food this week even a
half ton pickup couldn't carry it all in one trip.

The 1,112 pounds of food is a new donation record and beats the old record of 901 lbs. three weeks ago by a hefty sum. It just goes to show that Feeding America and the Community Food Bank are absolutely correct when they say that “creating awareness” is an essential part of their campaign to feed hungry kids and folks in America. Think about it, each One Can A Week expansion into a new Sprouts Farmers Market proves their point. Customers are exposed to the need every time they go shopping and the donation of quality food soars week after week.

This week’s donations amounted to 1,112 lbs. and included River View Estates, 42 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 196 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 222 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 360 lbs.; Shiva Vista, 60 lbs.; Miles School, 92 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 140 lbs.

Special Note: Donations over 500 lbs. per week is considered a truck load. Since fresh produce requires more timely delivers to the Community Food Bank coupled with the 1,000 lb. capacity of the Chevy S10, there may be more than two photos of loaded trucks in the future.

Light summer staples
The Community Food Bank is looking to provide children and families lots of quality cereal and peanut butter for the summer months ahead. Fry’s is asking you to donate these items throughout June. Also, if you notice, many of our neighbors already got the message. (See photo on the right.) So let’s keep the cereal and peanut butter coming.

We collected a total of 140 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $31.00, a $25.00 check and $6.00 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, April 7, 2014

274th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood One Can A Week Project

Hi Folks,

Megan Guthrie, Miles neighbor creates spot-on One Can A Week news video
Click on links or photo link to view video.
On a Sunday last fall, Megan Guthrie’s dad stopped me at his front door to tell me how proud he was that his daughter just got accepted into the graduate program at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. In late February of this year Megan asked me if she could do a story on One Can A Week but her professor had to approve the project first. If a student wanted to report on a social project it had to be new and different she informed me.

To help her sell the idea, I sent Megan a bullet point fact sheet filled with “new and different” things about One Can A Week. That did the trick and a few weeks ago Megan shot the video that also included appearances by Richard Rodriguez, the Store Director at Sprouts – Oracle and Jack Parris, the Public Relations Manager at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

Megan only had one minute and forty-one seconds to tell the story so this is what she did. From our different vantage points in the One Can A Week program, Richard, Jack and I come to the same conclusion. One Can A Week is easy on everyone who gets involved and it helps people help. Although none of our dialog was scripted our similar assessments highlighted what motivates neighbors, supermarket shoppers and corporate managers to help feed the hungry … a charity program that is simple, quick and easy. Now that’s new … and really different, isn’t it? 
Sprouts - River Road opening sets new record

Only the Store Director and assistant manger knew One Can A Week was going to appear Thursday morning in the Sprouts - River Road store.  Within minutes after setting up the display table near the front entrance several cashiers and baggers asked for an explanation. They were delighted I was collecting donations for the Community Food Bank.

About twenty minutes into the morning a gentleman walked up to the table, took two dollars from his wallet and placed them in the wicker basket. This was a very good sign. I thanked him and told him he was the very first person to donate in the River Road store. He appreciated the news and smiled widely as he pushed his shopping cart out of the store.

About mid way through the morning, Carrie, the assistant manager stepped up to the bin and stooped a bit to pear in. Her face took on a disappointed look as she walked away. I was touched by her interested even though the bin was still empty. That soon changed when two gentlemen dropped off some expensive olive oil and cooking sauce. 

The wicker basket was beginning to fill with lots of dollar bills and a most welcomed $5 bill. Then James, a well liked cashier—whose regular customers greeted him with boisterous salutations—walked up to the table while on break and dropped a $20 bill on top of all those $1s. “I’m retired and this job makes that possible,” he said.

With James’ $20 bill along with 18 other folks’ $1 bills I was able to purchase ten 10-pound bags of potatoes. That many potato bags in a shopping cart always piques nearby shoppers’ interest and they have to say something. “How many fries are you going to make?” Or “You’re having a party?”

This time the woman in front of me in line just asked, “What are those for?” After I told her I was purchasing the potatoes for the Community Food Bank’s Agency Market she dug into her purse and handed me a $10 bill.  “You can use that for next week,” she suggested.  

As I maneuvered out of line I replied, “No, I’m going back for more. Thank you very much.”

Now I had $48 which purchased 132 lbs. of potatoes. In addition people donated 8 pounds of food. The total weight of 140 lbs. set a record. Speedway’s first donation was 50 lbs. and Oracle’s, 26 lbs. In those days I used to purchase cans that cost about 89 cents per pound. After recalculating for the potato price of 35 cents a pound, both Speedway and Oracle were still lower. So its official, River Road is the new first day leader.

When I checked out I got back into James’ line because I wanted him to see what his generosity produced. His cash stayed in the store and helped his company’s bottom line while at the same time he helped provide a great many people with Sprouts-quality food. James experienced One Can A Week’s win-win situation. Bet he’ll do it again … soon.

11th Truck Load - 2014
Now that we are supplying the Community Food Bank’s Agency Market with fresh Sprouts potatoes I make two runs (Monday and Friday) to keep the produce really fresh. It’s only eight miles to the food bank and back which costs $1.28 in gas. Think about it, for $1.28 more a week we get to donate many hundreds of pounds more of fresh potatoes. It is so worth it.

This week’s donations amounted to 638 lbs. and included River View Estates, 48 lbs.; Sprouts (Speedway), 194 lbs.; Sprouts (Oracle), 120 lbs.; Sprouts (River Road), 140 lbs.; Ward 6, 20 lbs. and Miles Neighborhood, 116 lbs.

Volunteer Appreciation Day
Anna and her family took a much needed and fun day trip. Kym took a sick day, I’m sorry to say, so Sunday was a reminder of what it was like in the old days when I first started One Can A Week. Lots of stops and lots of chit chat with the neighbors. Chit chat is always the fun part.

It was a little tired when I finished at 3 pm but not too burned out to think about Anna and her family and Kym. Their help each Sunday is really important to me and One Can A Week. However, I do feel more appreciation for their contribution whenever they have to take a little time off … that’s for sure.

We collected a total of 116 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $35.91, a $25.00 check and $10.91 in cash.

See you Sunday,