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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Community Grows

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Nonprofit Overview

Mission: CommunityGrows cultivates healthy youth through growing gardens in low-income, diverse neighborhoods.

Results: "I wasn't expecting to open my mind so much,” Eluis, a 2016-17 BEET said. “BEETS has opened my mind to new daily habits with food and helping out the community. I eat less meat and more fruit and veggies." CommunityGrows has provided community development services to the Western Addition neighborhood since 1994. That is when the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group was founded to reclaim Koshland Park from rampant criminal activity. Having been successful, we created the Koshland Park Community Learning Garden and Western Addition Peace Wall. Since then, we have built, renovated and maintained eight other community gardens in San Francisco.

Target demographics: low-income youth and youth of color in San Francisco

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1,300 youth

Geographic areas served: Western Addition, Bayview-Hunters Point, Outer Mission/Excelsior

Programs: Since 1994, we have provided garden-based youth development programs which combine environmental, nutrition, and health education with job skills training to help low-income youth and color in San Francisco become healthy leaders in their communities. - Garden Education Program: teaches science, eco-literacy, skill building and teamwork low-income children and youth, ages 5-14, in partnership with 2 public schools and 12 community-based organizations. These classes take place in school, after school, and during the summer. Participants increase their respect for their garden and the environment; gain new knowledge about the environment and science; and learn teamwork by maintaining a garden. -Seed to Mouth Cooking & Nutrition Program: teaches youth about nutrition and healthy eating through weekly after-school and summer cooking classes at community centers and local housing developments. Staff encourage youth to adopt healthy eating and lifestyle habits, discuss where food grows and how to create delicious, nutritious meals. Youth in the program report increased consumption of and greater interest in healthy foods, improved cooking skills, and greater openness to trying new foods. -BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) is a paid job experience program for youth , ages 15-19. Students learn basic gardening, life and job skills, and leadership as they teach younger students; organize in their communities; and build and maintain gardens in low-income neighborhoods. BEETS youth improve their job readiness; make a positive impact in their community; grow as environmental stewards; develop teamwork skills and build supportive relationships. As BEETS steward their gardens they become stewards of their own lives.

Community Stories

45 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

A wonderful program. Helping urban kids make connections between the environment, nutrition, exercise, and their health is so important. We need hundreds of small community-based groups like this in neigbhborhoods across the county.

36

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I moved recently to SF from NYC. Didn't really know anyone and unlike NYC you don't run into people all the time. Started taking my dog to Daniel Koshland Park in the morning and found an awesome community that's really sweet and caring. They make my days start so much better. The day I found a tick on my dog, I freaked out and ran to the park and found folks to help me out. I also found a new home for a poor dog whose owner had passed away and had been trapped in a home by herself for a month. Thank you to the parks group for creating such a wonderful environment!!!

34

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HVNPG has made Hayes Valley a wonderful place to live. Their work with the peace wall and the gardens has improved the quality of life for our community, has given us a feeling of pride in our neighborhood and brought us closer together.

36

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HVNPG is a great organization to work with. They made up of are dedicated, passionate, and grounded who make a positive impact to the community. Their staff members Barbara and Nora are absolutely wonderful. They are so organized! My company, Sherwood Design Engineers, had a volunteer event this past weekend April 18th at the Koshland Community Garden in Hayes Valley, SF. We had a wonderful time! There were many activities to do including painting, mulching, composting, weeding, etc. They were so organized and did not overwork the volunteers, which is a great thing b/c many organizations do that.

37

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Close to two thousand commmunity members were given a sense of ownership/belonging to this neighborhood by their contribution of their own artwork to the huge public Peace Wall surrounding Koshland Park. The artworks created arose out of workshops in which individuals of all ages and backgrounds explored nonviolent forms of communication and problem solving and learned emotional literacy, then expressed their unique vision of "peace" on a ceramic tile. I feel that the opportunity provided by HVNPG for people to have their artwork, whatever its technical "finish", permanently and publicly on display is a powerful creator of a sense of self-worth and community membership. My experience of the love, joy, and sincerity brought to their work by the non-professional artists in the tile painting workshops was deeply moving. The unveiling celebration was a beautiful demonstration of community unity as well. Furthermore, whenever I visit the site of the artwork I am struck by the feeling of vibrancy at Koshland Park and the lovely gardens which are very well used by a diverse community. My experience with Barbara Wenger and others at HVNPG was consistently inspiring. These people are extremely dedicated and hard working stewards of their neighborhood and of the environment and I heartily endorse them as a great green non-profit!

36

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love HVNPG! They provide me with the opportunity to get my hands dirty, to watch seeds become plants, to be a part of something bigger.

26

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Hayes Valley parks are jewels in our neighborhood thanks to the efforts of HVNPG. Many thanks to all behind the scenes, most notably Barbara Wenger for making it all happen. It's a blessing for us to have safe, well-kept community areas available. I'm personally grateful not only to have Koshland Park at hand to do my Qigong and Tai Chi in but also to Barbara for initiating our group's original qigong class meetings at the park. They've led to an ongoing qigong and tai chi study group (newcomers are always welcome to drop in at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday mornings.) From the opportunities provided to local kids via the Learning Garden, to the chance to compost kitchen scraps, to the wonderful and inspiring Peace Wall we're all much richer for the under-provided-for HVNPG!

25

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HVNPG is a wonderful addition to the community, and you can tell the kids really love the programs. The staff are smart and devoted to the cause, continually growing and adding programs that help the neighborhood.

28

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Committed caring people who care about our community and who are doing great work at getting kids and young people excited about caring for the parks and gardens in their community. Volunteering for HVNPG was a great experience and I encourage others to discover the great work they are doing right in our own backyard.

25

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Hayes Valley Neighborhood PARKS is an invaluable part of our community. Where there was nothing, now there are beautiful parks and a lovely neighborhood destination. There work raises the spirit of the whole neighborhood, from passers by to the students they work with.

24

Client Served

Rating: 5

we manage a public and affordable housing development that has benefitted from working with the hayes valley neighborhood parks group. our residents are sometimes overlooked and/or alienated given the socioeconomic status of many people that live around them, and the parks group has helped them stay connected and involved.

26

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've lived next door to the Koshland Park garden, part of the Hayes Valley parks group, for the past four years. In my time living next door to the garden I have often volunteered at the garden clean ups. It is great have a garden in the neighborhood - the flowers and butterflies and birds are great to have in the city. The park also provides gardening and compost classes for the neighborhood kids.

23

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been following this organization since its inception more than a decade ago. The force behind it is Barbara Wenger. She has renovated two parks on my street and been instrumental in the development and stewardship of two others. Over the years she has helped thousand of people young and old with her Peace project culminating with the installation of the Peace Wall on Page and Buchanan streets. Through out these years she has always had a special concern for youth, and the environment. You only need to look at the teaching garden at Koshland park to see how important it is to her. Her organization is embedded at John Muir Elementary school. HVNPG pays the salaries of garden educators who teach all grades, an expansive curriculum based in the garden. I have watched her in cramped home office working seven days a week for years on end -for no pay. She deserves awards, recognition, and everything good.

26

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I moved into this neighborhood in 1991. At that time, there were huge problems that made it difficult to feel safe and secure living here. We had drug dealers, prostitutes, nightly gun fire, graffiti, robberies and muggings. It was frightening as I walked the block from the bus stop to my home after work each night. Koshland park was also a nightmare; a regular shooting gallery with drug abusers who left their used needles in the playground, prostitutes who carried on their "business" in this lowly lit refuge. Fortunately, there were also people that lived in this neighborhood who cared for one another and looked out for each others welfare. Thus began the building of the strength that has become the wonderful HVNPG. I am witness to the vast improvements that have taken place over the years. Our park is well maintained, fun, safe and a constant pleasure to visit. I have met wonderful and colorful neighbors and have had the opportunity to be involved with many beautiful neighborhood activities. I can not conclude without mentioning the "peace wall" which for me symbolizes the hope that has survived and prevailed in this neighborhood through the years. Continued success to the HVNPG - thanks to all for making this one of the best neighborhoods in our magical city.

21

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I give this group the highest rating that is possible. Especially for Barbara Wenger and her undying commitment to this neighborhood and her efforts over the last many years to care for this Park.

25

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

While I don't live in this neighborhood I have frequent occasion to be in the area of Koshland Park. I have seen it evolve to a down trodden place to an thing of beauty. It is quite heartening to be in the park and watch all the activity that goes on there. I find it especially pleasing to see all the children and young people who are planting, playing, and otherwise enjoying the benefit of nature in the middle of the city. The tiled wall couldn't be more pleasing to the eye.

25

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The hayes valley neighborhood parks group does great work. My favorite is the mural on the park wall. Great job involving neighborhood. BEAUTIFUL addition. Beautifying and instilling greater sense of community. BRAVO Sharon Brooks

28

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Barbara Wenger is an outstanding parks representative since she is both an outstanding neighbor and community liaison. She is interested in all things that contribute to the improvement of Hayes Valley. Personally, she has provided excellent advice and counsel to neighbors who want to see the former UC Extension returned to the public as a historic monument that is used for higher public good. She is generous, thoughtful and a very good leader. I hope she is successful with her efforts to achieve a great nonprofit review!

25

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Warm, welcoming garden. It's great that there are so many ways the Koshland COmmunity Learning Garden is used: elementary school classes, youth development & green job preparation, community events, and individual garden plots. The garden is an asis in the lower haight/hayes valley.

24

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am thankful to be a part of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood PARKS Group. From time to time I volunteer with them and enjoy working with the kids that they mentor. I've done two sessions with their Rangers group and I've seen the kids interact creatively with each other, be it working individually or as a team.