I was inspired early in life to try to make a mark on the world. And even though I'm a bit of a natural caretaker -- working as a lifeguard and even helping find jobs for folks suffering from traumatic brain injury -- meetings and organizations just weren't my style.
Then, in 2008, our newly elected President, Barack Obama, suggested that I get involved in my community. Well, he didn't ask me personally, but I took it that way.
While stewing on how I could answer my president's call, I began to see news stories about how desperate our food bank -- the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona -- was for donations.
The closest I've ever been to being hungry as a kid was when my folks forgot to buy the groceries one time, and my three brothers and I had to have white bread and molasses for breakfast. The memory of that stinging flavor still makes me crinkle my face and shake my head.
Then it hit me all at once.
I thought of an idea to pick up food from my neighbors in Miles, a working-class neighborhood in Tucson, Ariz., every Sunday. I call the project “One Can A Week.”
Just Ask the Question
I found that sometimes, all you have to do is ask for help.
“Of course,” said Ed Altamirano, the first neighbor I asked for canned goods. After three months of visiting 10 neighbors each week, I had 100 participants -- about 50 percent of the people who live in our community.
One Can A Week began more than three years ago, and we're still going strong. Along with my three volunteers -- Barbara Farragut, Kym Fuhrig, and Lenny Cota-Robles -- we have collected and donated 19.4 tons of food and $8,691.95 in 171 weeks.
At 1.3 pounds per meal, our neighbors have fed more than 19,977 parents and kids one meal. The money we've collected has generated something like $91,000 in food and services based on the Community Food Bank's buying power ratio of $10.20 per dollar donated.
Others have replicated One Can A Week around the country – there are people as close as Phoenix and as far away as New Jersey, North Carolina, and West Virginia who have accepted the three-hour Sunday commitment.
Why do I do this every week? I'm no do-gooder, and I certainly don't like joining anything. But the joy I experience when I see that first can or cereal box sitting on the porch every Sunday morning is almost overwhelming. Barbara, Kym, Lenny and I know for sure hunger can end in America.
The food is there, we just have to pick it up.