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38 Reviews
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May 30, 2014

I'm an ex-law enforcement officer with PTSD, and am currently disabled with physical injuries and severe depression. I first became aware of the nonprofit's work when they started their first urban farming project five or so years ago, about a block from my apartment in Richmond. I met and became friends with their ED, Linda Schneider, over the next few years. I was minimally involved at first, because of my demanding workload at the time, and was frankly pretty skeptical that the project would survive -- as an LEO, I expected, in a tough urban neighborhood, to see major vandalism (or worse) pretty quickly.

Amazingly, the garden grew and flourished, and an increased community spirit and better neighbor-to-neighbor relationships soon developed. In addition to her work on the farm, Linda and her crew planted fruit and almond trees on the street, and these are now starting to bear fruit, to the delight of the many children and other pedestrians along San Joaquin. Other "farm" projects began spreading throughout Richmond, and our eyesore abandoned lot became a haven for agricultural discussions and chicken-raising help.

When I became completely disabled, six months ago, Linda started asking me to help feed and check on the nine chickens, eight ducks, and two rabbits that lived on site, since she had moved out of the immediate area of the "farm." After about three months it became a regular part of my routine. Now, I can't imagine life without my farm time! I have found it to be one of the most relaxing, calming, and enjoyable activities of my day -- it's at least, if not more, helpful than any other facet of my treatment for PTSD. The rhythms of the natural day, the calm neighborly interactions, and the spirit of the effort have comforted me, as well as giving me a way to feel like I'm still involved in helping and serving the community, even in my currently "gimpy" state.

I can't recommend this organization and its inspirational leader, Linda Schneider, highly enough. In addition to making a wonderful change to the immediate neighborhood in which I live, and providing many Richmond neighborhoods with their first real taste of good, home-farmed produce, Self-Sustaining Communities has given me an absolutely vital helping hand as I recover from working the tougher side of urban life. Linda's excellent examples in teaching, mentoring, and organization have been a huge inspiration to me to keep going, too -- she's really made it possible for me to find the courage to hang onto some of my own dreams for a gentler, more kindly, less materialistic society, at a time when I really have not had much other reason to continue to hope.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

... find a way to make a permanent teaching farm possible, on land permanently cared for and owned by the nonprofit. This would allow the nonprofit's plant-distributing, animal care, and teaching activities to have a stable basis. (Currently most activities are being done on abandoned urban lots, and the community is under the constant threat of losing their efforts, if a lot sells at auction or is suddenly leveled on the orders of an absentee landlord. Very stressful!)

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3 hours of volunteer time for this nonprofit will...

Plant vegetables, fruit trees, clean a chicken coop, harvest honey from a beehive, build Volunteer