“It must be so much fun being in public relations,” I hear all the time. “All those parties and elegant events!”
The truth is that it is a lot of fun being in public relations. But parties and events are just a small fraction of the work we really do. And even those assignments are not the glamorous walk in the park that many people think.
Canstruction is a unique charity that hosts competitions, exhibitions and events across the globe showcasing colossal structures made entirely of unopened cans of food. After the structures are built, the “cansculptures“ go on display to the public as a giant art exhibition. At the end of the event, all food is donated to local hunger relief organizations. In Knoxville’s case, the cans go to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.
You can visit the Knoxville Convention Center for free to see the seven structures Knoxville companies have built. They all involve a holiday theme and will be up until Dec. 2, when a reception will recognize winners in various categories. Children will love them, so do stop by and vote for the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Kids’ Choice Award. And vote for your favorite in the “People’s Choice” category on Facebook: Click here. (Moxley Carmichael worked on the Snoopy sculpture, and we’d love to have your vote!)
The exhibit turned out beautifully, but here’s what happened behind the scenes.
The presenting sponsor of Knoxville’s Canstruction build is Messer Construction Co., a Moxley Carmichael client. This is the second year Moxley Carmichael has assisted Messer with the event. In addition, we partnered with Johnson Architecture and Partners on Snoopy.
Our friends at Kroger were the grocer sponsor for this project and provided the canned food to the teams at cost. All the food had to be ordered from Kroger’s corporate office in Nashville and delivered on pallets from Kroger’s warehouses in Atlanta and Portland, Tenn., to the loading dock of the Knoxville Convention Center.
Here’s where the first problem occurred. Instead of delivering each team’s can orders separately for ease of construction, all the cans were mixed together — 19,000 of them! Moxley Carmichael staffers realized this when the cans arrived last Wednesday night. Construction was set to begin Friday morning at 8:30, and the rules said the teams could only work eight hours on their pieces, so starting on time was important.
So early Thursday, Moxley Carmichael’s Natalie Lester took two of our great interns, Arsenio Franklin and Savanna Howie, over to the Convention Center and they began sorting the cans into groups ordered by the individual teams. In the afternoon, three Convention Center employees graciously pitched in and, even later, Scott Bird and Amanda Shell Jennings of Moxley Carmichael came after they had finished with other commitments. Michael Higdon, a friend of Scott — and of us! — also helped out. The sorting was going well, but still, it took a lot of time due to the sheer number of cans.
But at 10 p.m. Thursday, 10 hours before the construction was to commence, it was discovered that a significant number of cans were missing from the order — about 2,000! The biggest need was for 780 cans of Luck’s pinto beans — the ones with bright yellow labels. It was too late to get more cans from the Kroger warehouse, so the Moxley Carmichael and Messer people came up with a strategy. “We decided to call every Kroger in Knoxville to see how many cans of Luck’s pinto beans they had,” Jennings said.
“We divided up the Kroger stores based on where we lived,” Lester explained. “The plan was for each of us to go to the Kroger closest to us, get as many of the items on our list as they had, take the food home and then return to the Convention Center with the cans before 7 a.m. Friday.”
Our folks left the Convention Center at 11 p.m. and headed to the different Kroger stores trying to beat the clock, since some of them closed at 1 a.m..
In addition to the 780 cans of Luck’s pinto beans, they needed: 660 containers of Chef Boyardee Mini ABC’s and 123’s, 140 tins of Beach Cliff sardines in soybean oil, 292 40-oz. cans of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli and some pecans and prunes!
Late at night, Kroger closes all its checkouts except the self-checkout lanes, but they made an exception when they saw our people coming with filled-to-the-top shopping carts. At the Middlebrook Pike Kroger, Natalie told a cashier, “I am about to buy hundreds of cans of food!” She filled two carts and just made it through checkout before the store closed at 1 a.m.
Meanwhile, at the Kroger on Cedar Bluff Road, Amanda filled one basket, took it to the checkout and said, “I’m not finished. But I wanted to let you get started scanning these while I go back to get more!” She found 269 cans of Luck’s pinto beans. Altogether, she bought 479 cans of food! They filled three carts.
Scott went to two Kroger stores and filled two shopping carts at each one. At the Kroger on Western Avenue the clerk asked him if he were sending the food overseas to the troops. Savanna Howie went to one Kroger. Randy Fields of Messer went to two. Tiffany Williamson, also of Messer, went to one. Everyone texted Scott with a report of what they were able to purchase. That went pretty well, but we did end up with 156 extra cans, which will be donated to Second Harvest.
Everyone said that the staff at each Kroger was very helpful, some staying past their getting off time; some helping get the cans into our people’s cars.
At 8:30 Friday morning when construction was to begin, every team had what they needed with the exception of the team of Cope Architecture, Management Solutions and the National Association of Women in Construction that needed 315 more of the mini ABC’s and 123’s. They started work on their pecan pie sculpture and the extra containers were delivered by Kroger from their warehouse by noon. No harm was done. A special thanks to Kroger’s Erin Grant from Nashville.
We appreciate and are very proud of the work our folks did to be sure this great community project was successful. But glamorous? Not so much. Some got a couple of hours sleep that night — and some none at all.
Go check out the finished products!