Last year, Peter Norback was looking for a way to do a service for his community. "Just before the election, Barack Obama was talking about community service. I had thought about that for years," said the 67-year-old resident of Tucson, Ariz. "But I couldn't get involved with those meetings that didn't do anything, it was just silly. I do things, I'm a project manager. I like more action."
Norback decided it was time to do something, so he attended a Community For Action meeting in his neighborhood. The meeting called for participants to bring an idea, but the other attendees were more interested in raising money rather than performing a service. His proposed idea of feeding the hungry in Tucson got no takers.
"Food drives are sporadic and they don't cover the need. I eat three times a day and I look forward to every meal. I said they have to be more consistent.
"I just said [to the meeting participants], I'll make it easy for you, I'll pull all the material together and you can use it in your neighborhood."
Norback put together an instruction package and strategy for "One Can A Week" that outlined how individual community members could collect food from their neighbors. Then he tried it out in his own backyard.
"I started with ten neighbors. They all said they would be glad to give me a can every Sunday. Then each week I got 10 new ones. Now, 70 percent of my neighbors, about 200 families, give at least one can a week, and we've been doing it for 45 weeks straight. We now have over 7000 pounds of food and 1300 dollars."
As an added benefit, Norback says, the continued drive has inspired his neighbors to get to know each other. Neighborhood parties and get-togethers that had been stalled for years have started again and the tradition division of neighbors in apartments and those in single family homes has been broken down.
The extraordinary efforts of Norback and his neighborhood have caught the notice of large media and government programs and with the extra attention, more people are using his instructions to start food drives in their own neighborhoods. He is hopeful that as the program is being adopted in more areas in his city and in Phoenix, they can eliminate hunger in all of Tucson or even Arizona.
For the program to work, Norback said, you don't need to live in a fancy neighborhood or commit all your extra time to the cause. He spends three to four hours each Sunday collecting cans from his neighbors and another three to four each week to send them newsletter updates and blog about the project.
Norback believes that all it takes for the program to be successful is strong commitment and a lot of walking around.
"The program will make people really feel that they're doing something to help somebody if they just stay at it. And They have to communicate back. All my neighbors are my investors and every investor I ever met wants to know what happens to their donation. I send a weekly newsletter and they love being treated with respect for their one can a week. The best customer service you can get in a store I'm giving to my neighbors, because I want to be treated that way."