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2015 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Self Sustaining Communities

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Human Service Organizations, Human Services, Public & Societal Benefit

Mission: To assist in creating a systemic change in the SF East Bay of Northern California which meets environmental, social, and sustainability needs by addressing those areas upon which survival is dependent, specifically food, energy, transportation, shelter and social inclusion. We focus on low-income, high crime areas, but are not necessarily limited thereto, most particularly Richmond, CA. We approach these areas as part of an integrated larger area where coming together to make a systemic change can effect greater well-being for all members of the community.

Results: Over 16,000 fruit, nut and olive trees distributed freely to the community; four urban farms in current production by and for the community. Street orchard planted for the homeless and addicted community nearby.

Target demographics: create local food, natural building structures, urban farmsm homeless work programs, work with formerly incarcerated

Geographic areas served: Richmond and San Pablo

Programs: materials, land and volunteer help to communities to create whole sustainable environments by and through their own sweat equity.

Community Stories

48 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love this place!! Bringing the farm life , organic garden and artistic twist to the city! It's a wonderful and peaceful place where you get to interact and care for the animals and learn how to live a health happy life! Being here helps to develop great skills of teamwork, patience, appreciation of hardwork and thinking outside the box! It has brought together many different people throughout the community in building and working together for an enviromental friendly atmosphere! I am excited to see and be part of its continues growth!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am part of a larger social group in the East Bay area. We have looked for volunteer opportunities to serve the community and have participated in the local urban farms and related activities that Self-Sustaining Communities offers. The noticeable change that takes place in a neighborhood when one of these urban farms or gardens goes in is inspiring. Neighbors rally around; passersby run home to create similar environments in their own yards; people show curiosity and care toward the farm animals. It's an important and thoughtful way to make change in these necessary times.

1 Plantgrowshare15

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Self-sustaining communities is doing great things in the community. I've had great experiences with Linda, a very giving person, willing and ready to help others. My family have benefited from her generosity, we're able to use space at one of the garden locations, whatever help/advice we need with gardening she's there. Organizations like self-sustaining communities are a must in each city.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I first learned about Self-Sustaining Communities two years ago when my husband and I had just moved to Richmond from Oakland. I was a little sad that I had lost a good-sized (rental, not ours) backyard that I had cultivated in Oakland after moving to a second floor apartment. As we were driving on San Joaquin, I noticed what looked like a community garden. We made inquiries and got to know Linda Schneider and the Self-Sustaining Communities and got a bed. I had to travel abroad a month later due to a family matter, a trip that took ten months. In the meantime, my husband tried valiantly, but little success to cultivate more beds. When I cam back in September of last year, the two of us got to work in earnest in the garden. With Linda's support and encouragement, we took over the large garden and within the course of six or seven months, we developed what we believe to be one of the most verdant and resplendent gardens in the area. Yes, we did put in hard work and gardening skills, but none of it would have been possible without the material and emotional support of Linda and the Self-Sustaining Communities.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

One of the big motivating factors for us moving to our current apartment was the charming Self Sustaining Communities farm behind our house. We had head about Food Justice and others like it and LOVED the idea. A load of people in our neighborhood chose to live there in part to the closeness to a garden that they could affordably grow some of their own food with the help of this non profit and build a community with their neighbors.
The goals of SSC are wonderful and aim to help people grow.
Does everything go according to plan? not always, but what does? We are working with people, where they are at and sometimes they are not quite ready for the responsibility they take on, but They learn something new and hopefully be come even better people.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Linda Schneider has done a monumental job in making her vision a reality. The result is nothing short of astonishing. The seeds being planted by her community organizing have now grown into a healthy sapling. I have known Linda for many years now and with her determination to do what is right, this sapling will grow into a mighty oak tree and create incredible change for the community she serves.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love Self Sustaining Communities, and highly respect the director Linda Schneider and the work that she does. The way she involves and motivates the local community is a tremendous asset to all of the cities she works with. Her love for animals and personal food production is an inspiration to all. It is wonderful to have such an example of how we can live more naturally and in harmony with our environment. I encourage more people to become involved with this work and with community service.

Hossein K.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I got involved with Self Sustaining Communities 20 months ago, in October of 2013. Driving home one day to work, my wife and I spotted this little oasis (actually more than 7000 sq. ft. of cultivated land with a beehive and at the time many animal farms) at the intersection of San Joaquin and Colusa in Richmond. We made inquiries from a rather sophisticated and cultured beekeeper who happened to be working on her hives at that moment. She connected us with Linda Schneider, the director of self Sustaining Communities. We stated with a small bed and in a matter of months were so involved that we were asked to mange the garden. We have become so absorbed in realizing the garden full potential that many days we get up at 5 and work for hours (in our summer vacation) in mulching, weeding and creating beds. The main reason that we are so deeply involved is Linda Schneider's trust and full support of our projects. Linda is a visionary who constantly sees the full potential of our endeavor and the possibility of expanding our activities beyond this Richmond garden. She has already created a second sight ( actually a third site; the second site was developed and given to other people) with animals and future plans for agricultural development. My wife and I had plenty of gardening experience when we lived in Rochester, New York, and one thing that we love about working with and in Self Sustaining Communities is that it follows all the principles of organic and sustainable gardening/farming that we hold very dear: no chemicals, no herbicides, no pesticides, and now following the example of The Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, no tilling.

I am a visual culture professor by training, but I feel like a true gardener whenever I step into the garden and I owe that liberating transformation to Self Sustaining Communities.

Donor

Rating: 5

Since I first found out about Self Sustaining Communities I have continued to be pleased and encouraged with what they are doing. Looking back at the things they have accomplished for the community before I heard of them, it's impressive.
The progress they have made since then, with their new larger plot of land has been a joy to see and to follow via social media.
I can't wait to see this and their other projects (if you'll pardon the pun) continue to flourish and bear fruit.

Scott Weston

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

As an an employee at a local business in Richmond that donates plants to Self Sustaining Communities, I've had the pleasure of interacting with its founder, Linda, over the past two years during which time I have been awed to observe the growth and impact of this organization. I attended an open house event showcasing a few of the transitional housing units and urban farms, and I was highly impressed and moved by the level of initiative and efficacy of these systems. Recently, Self Sustaining Communities has acquired a 2.2 acre parcel in San Pablo with plans to develop a thriving farm there, complete with livestock; I visited the area with Linda and am already inspired by the progress taking place there. I strongly believe in the vision of this organization and am excited to see how this project will continue to evolve!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered as the "volunteer" coordinator for several years now. It has been a rewarding and sometimes challenging position in working with many community members, from all walks of life. What has been most impressive to me is that people are able to create something significant and of interest without salaries and often with just donations of materials. What else has been really unique about observing this program is that so many people are influenced by it. They are influenced in either small or larger ways. Some just want plants to take home. Others want to bring their kids to help too. Occasionally people want to know how they can start similar urban farms in their own communities. We see people come together who normally might not meet. We see people learn to work together on projects that require an increase in skills and learning. I have been fortunate that I am in a position to be able to volunteer my time. I know that other participants have basic survival needs that aren't always able to be met by them, and so providing alternative means to meet those needs through this learning and this program are satisfying and tangibly helpful

Donor

Rating: 5

As a regular small donor to Self-Sustaining Communities, I have been eager to see that they are able to do those things which, as a senior community member, I am no longer able to do. As a result, I do feel that in my small way I am able to help, and that gives me great satisfaction to know I can still make a difference too. They are always so appreciative of my gift. I enjoy the handwritten notes and I look forward to seeing the press and favorable impact they always have in their community.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have watched this charitable program in operation as a community member for nearly five years. What has been accomplished in that relatively short period of time has been astonishing. I have benefited as they spearheaded changing an animal ordinance in my town so that more people could provide for their own food when the economy tanked. After that they began to pass out free fruit trees, adding to the ability of residents to become self-reliant. Then their small farms began to spring up, and seeds and vegetable starts also were being donated from them to residents in local cities. They have been a role mode for a lot of people. I also notice that teachers from my daughter's school have gotten fertile chicken eggs for hatching projects too. After they began these efforts, the City of Richmond decided to adopt an urban agricultural program and the impacts have been sweeping. I know that the volunteers work with communities and environments that are often overlooked or considered dangerous by others. Yet, they seem to get really good results and they don't appear to treat anyone differently because of circumstances.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I came to Self-Sustaining Communities' urban farm it was because I had to work off some community service hours. What I didn't know was that I would learn a lot at the same time, and have some fun too. It is a lot of hard work though. I learned more about small farm animals than I ever have in my life, and I also learned how to plant fruit trees. My brother wanted to come with me too, and they let him come to work. He was excited to see the chickens, ducks and rabbits. I think they are nice people.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was there at the very beginning of the Richmond Annex farm. I helped build the raised beds, plant them, build the gate and fencing, and I have helped take care of the animals. I had a serious addiction and as time went along I was able to make a commitment to quit. I did. My life has been much better, although I still have more work to do.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I have had a good time working with self sustaining community and trupp they both have pushed me to do thing I never thought I will do on this earth. They showed me how to be a man and what it take to be a real successful young man .I am very thankful for everything they have done for me I would work with them any time and day its real fun and help me look at the world different.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

working with self sustaining communities and t.r.u.p.p has been a great experience. I've learned a lot of new things and done things I would have thought I would be doing, things such as; building organic gardens, help taking care of the elderly and mentally challenged people around the t.r.u.p.p. transitional houses. while working with these organizations I found myself enrolling for college at contra costa county and doing positive things for the community. Honestly self sustaining communities and the remember us people project have helped me become the kind and giving person I should be.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Working with TRUPP has been fun learning how to plant vegetables and fruits, also with Linda Self Sustaining Community's. If it wasn't for The Remember Us People Project and Self Sustaining Community I probably wouldn't be going to school for my G.E.D and Attending Contra Costa College to play Football and Majoring In Administration Of Justice This Fall. In the meantime I also monitor tenants with mental health issues and maintain peoples yards around the neighborhood.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

One day I met this lady name Linda. She was on a piece of property that had farm animals and organic vegetable plants growing. I met her through a friend. He explained to me what she was doing and how her non-profit has up lifted the community, by growing and planting your own vegetables. At first I wasn't interested in what was going on until I actual had eaten from the garden in which she provides for. Several weeks later I made contact with her to ask if I may come out to the farm and participate. At that time I began to talk to her about what I was trying to do in the city of Richmond. I explained to her that I had done five (5) years in prison, and while I was incarcerated I wrote a program called The Remember Us People Project (trupp)


This program that I wrote consist of working with individuals that have been formally incarcerated or not, that simply have know where to go upon release from prison or county jail, or just plan homeless. This is what we call transitional living/housing. As time passed, I became more involved with what linda had going. A few of my guys that live in the transition house started getting involved with self sustaining community. By being involved with self sustaining community, we developed a business relationship. Linda and her organization became my fiscal agent.


The growth of both organizations began to get noticed more as we began doing projects around the city together. We started giving out fruit trees to low income households, we began notifying other people how important it is to be self sustainable, and the importance of health eating.


Now, at the transition homes we have organic gardens growing in two (2) of the three (3) backyards. These gardens are built, maintained, and organized by the young men at the transition homes. This also lead to more positive things, such as three (3) of the young men going to Jr. college at the present time. All the positive things that have occurred in this short period of time has spread throughout the communities, from the mayors office to the people. Community support has plumed through the roof.


I would like to thank Linda at self sustaining community for allowing us to be part of a great team. We look forward to continuing or relationship over the next several years or more. Thank you Ms Linda.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It has been a dream of mine, for many years, to raise my family on a farm so that they could learn through direct experience how to grow their own food, how to take care of animals and how to be a part of a conscious community. There are a handful of reasons why my husband and I are not able to purchase a farm at this time.
So, when I discovered the Self-Sustaining Community garden, right around the corner from where we live, I was really excited. My two daughters, Diana 2 3/4 years old and Athena 15 months old, and I have been volunteering there 4- 5 nights a week for the past three months. Prior to that, it was 1-2 times a week for 3 years. We help Winnie with feeding and watering the ducks, chickens and rabbits. We have also started growing our own vegetables, and so we water them as well. Diana loves to take some of the chicken feed and squat down and feed the ducks and chickens from her hands. It is also very exciting for Diana when she finds eggs that have been laid by the ducks or chickens. Athena, loves to take a small container and dip it in the water bucket and then Mommy gently guides her to water the vegetables in our garden. This is the highlight of our day!
My children are benefiting greatly from their experiences at the Self Sustaining Community garden and I am too. I feel empowered. I am deeply grateful to this not-for profit for their presence in our community!

Review from Guidestar

Winnie K.

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I live in an apartment building without any grounds for gardening and was looking for an opportunity to work in a garden. Fortunately, I was referred to Self Sustaining Communities. Linda has been flexible with my crazy work schedule and I've been able to volunteer. The variety of opportunities besides actually working in the garden plot is really amazing- one weekend we handed out fruit trees, another, I cleaned out the hen house and was rewarded with fresh eggs. As expected, this organization attracts interesting and committed individuals. Linda is very knowledgeable about plants and animals on the lands. She is a visionary and very inspiring when she presents her ideas for creating a sustainable future as fuel prices rise and it's unrealistic to transport vegetables long distances. Several weekends i worked with youth from a halfway house the non profit is connected with. It feels very meaningful that we are involved in teaching viable skills to future generations.
If you have a desire to be involved in gardening, this is the group for you.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering at Self-Sustaining Communities for over seven months and in that short period of time I have gained a new perspective on life. Working on the garden is so satisfying and helping pass out free fruit trees and vegetables to the Richmond community was life changing. Linda is selfless, welcoming and inspiring. She has changed many lives including mine and I can't thank her enough for the experiences she has given me. Self-Sustaining Communities gives people second chances, brings people together and is my favorite place to be on Friday afternoons.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Self sustaining communities is a real eye opener for me. I knew there were urban gardens around but never actually been inside one or knew how to run one. Linda's gardens are inviting and allows you full access to explore and learn. I have always wanted a garden of my own, so its amazing to see such wonderful examples and the potential the gardens have. By volunteering in these gardens, I not only learn what it takes, but meet new people and witness first hand the positive effect it has on people's lives.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My interaction with Self Sustaining Communities has been as an active volunteer. Because of my experience with trees and nursery work I always help out with picking up bare root fruit trees and distributing them to Richmond neighborhoods. Sometimes I will hold over the bare root stock until they are needed by the communities. I enjoy doing this because I enjoy working with plants. What has surprised me is the enjoyment I get from working with the people receiving these trees. They are very thankful, but also full of questions, and they show a desire to learn about the 'fruits' of their labor.

Self Sustaining Communities is a wonderful vehicle for getting things done. I especially appreciate the willingness to dive into a project and work their way through it. I see that in the chicken and rabbit farm, the vegetable gardens, the hydroponics and fish project. These are things that they just get done, and then they produce. That is the key to self-sustaining.

I would encourage others to volunteer. Don't let your fear of the unknown prevent you from meeting real good people. It is rewarding for everyone involved. This is a great organization.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

i learned about the work that Self-Sustaining Communities is doing when viewing a brilliant television program. Seeing the light in the eyes of the young people who are so proud of their participation in growing a garden and building something positive in their community moved me to tears. To offer the opportunity to contribute to LIFE through planting gardens as the alternative to the death and destruction of gang membership - is truly awe inspiring and uplifting not only for the participants, but for anyone that is blessed to know about this work. Each and every one of us can make a difference wherever we live. I am so very grateful to know about Self-Sustaining communities. I am inspired and encouraged, and I look forward to a flourishing future for this organization and the beautiful people who take part in their work!

Neli M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Having come from Bulgaria, and first going to South Carolina, settling in California, I was so impressed with what I saw this organization doing that I decided to get involved myself. I moved into Richmond to be a part of this organization because I love to see the results of my work, working outdoors for the environment, with people on urban farms, and in neighborhoods creating green environments. I see children learning this as a way of life and I see hope for the future.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I found this charity when looking for a home near a community garden or farm. I found Self Sustaining Communities and fell in love right away. I began volunteering in the garden and quickly found a plot of land on the site that had not been planted. We began working on planning and digging in this area and are slowing transforming it to be a permaculture food forest. We'll work w/ the soil over the next couple of seasons and plant in the spring. I was very happy to find a place to volunteer regularly w/ freedom to start my own project and learn as I go.
Now, I help w/ the chickens and other animals too. Daily morning feedings give me an opportunity to connect to the farm in a deeper way. I feel a great sense of purpose while starting my morning at dawn on the farm, surprisingly in Richmond.
The most exciting things about this organization is the people that run it and volunteer here. There is a growing community of volunteers who feel a sense of home on our farm. Seeing regular faces in a neighborhood I wouldn't expect to love has made my move feel like home.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity when I moved to Richmond. Self Sustaining Communities appealed to me on multiple levels; people creating alternative economies and moving toward self-reliance, promoting an awareness of healthy eating and physical activity, moving away from industrial agriculture, building a sense of community, cooperation, and ownership in blighted areas. Self-Sustaining Communites is having a real impact in this community, and provides an opportunity for volunteers who want to feel engaged in a worthwhile project.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I was amazed by what this community is doing. I'm a realtor. I was looking a property earlier this year, and passed by a little farm garden. The garden has vegetable beds and varity of vegetables, chicken house, bee house and fish pond. I was curious who was doing all of those, and that's how I met Linda. I then learned that not only this farm, the organization also created three farms in other areas in Richmond. I was very much impressed. Richmond has the worst reputation in Bay Area in terms of high crime rate and low income level. Self sustainable communities has been done so much to improve the areas, and at so limited resources.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My husband and I met Linda Schneider earlier this year, 2013.

Linda took us on a tour of the different community gardens that Self Sustaining Communities has started in the Richmond neighborhoods. As we drove into the areas where the gardens are located I noticed that there were very few grocery stores and the ones that were there seemed to be more quick stop types where I'm sure there were no fresh fruits and vegetables, and if they had them the variety would be limited and definitely not organic. At all of the gardens we saw the tender loving care that the local residents have put into "their" gardens, so much love and pride.

Linda has been able to connect with caring nurseries who have provided thousands of fruit trees that have been planted (by volunteers) as street trees in neighborhoods where the fresh fruit is there for everyone to pick free of charge. These gardens have given people the joy of working with their hands and babying the plants and then eating fresh picked vegetables and fruits, not ones that have been sprayed or picked too early so that they can handle being shipped from afar. These gardens have also helped make neighborhoods more of a community, a way to have social contact with their neighbors and helps people who would normally be isolated become more social. I can't say enough good things about this organization.

I have been around a lot of people who work in nonprofit organizations but Linda is by far the most dedicated one I have ever met. She moved into Richmond and lives at one of her self sustaining gardens properties. Linda is such a hard worker, she gives her all for this organization that she created and continues to nurture.

I am so impressed with the work she had done and all of the exciting news of new projects and how so many new volunteers etc. want to get involved. She's sure has found a need and is filling it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you can give Linda a call and make an appointment to go on a tour of the gardens, it will warm your heart and maybe you'll find time to volunteer.

Lila S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great organization and great people. Very inspiring.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Linda is such a sweet woman and very compassionate when it comes to helping the community! I highly recommend SELF SUSTAINING COMMUNITIES! God Bless them and their efforts!!

spelledwrongagain

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I picked up a flyer about Self Sustaining Communities, during one of their fruit tree giveaway programs last year at the Richmond Farmers' Market. I got in touch with Linda Schneider, the director, because I was interested in working with the aquaponics system, at the farm location in Richmond's Panhandle Annex.

Over time I came to know Linda and found that the whole thrust of Self Sustaining Communities' work interests me. I learned of her program of rehabilitating blighted lots in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Richmond into urban farms. What truly impressed me was that she has been knocking on doors, asking the neighbors of each urban farm location, what sort of green space they would like to have there, fruit orchards, community gardens, play space for kids? Neighbors then start to plan their green space, and ultimately title of the land is given to the neighborhood people.

Richmond really needs these little urban farms ... ! They boost the quality of life for the whole neighborhood.
I have seldom seen such a beneficial and openhearted plan as this, put into action. It is such an obviously good idea, and I feel inspired to do what I can to help make it happen.

Linda strikes me as a person of great integrity and discipline as well. in fact this altruistic vision of hers seems to bring out the best in volunteers who take part in SSC's projects.

Evelyn W.

Donor

Rating: 5

Self-Sustaining Communities has received small grants from The Strong Foundation for Environmental Values. We support the goal of this organization, working to better the lives of Richmond residents through sustainable living and community participation. Under the visionary and collaboratory leadership of Executive Director, Linda Schneider, Self-Sustaining Communities has quickly become an effective community organization that is creative in its responsiveness to community needs.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Self-Sustaining Communities is an amazingly effective non-profit that engages directly with underserved populations and produces significant visible and social impacts on the communities it serves. The dynamic Executive Director, Linda Schneider is especially effective at leveraging community, municipal and industry support to increase the backing of projects and their likelihood of success.

I became involved with the organization from the academic research side when I included Self-Sustaining Communities projects in my Community Design Outreach architecture studio classes at the University of San Francisco. These courses have upper level students working on real projects for local and international communities in need. Bay Area projects generally center around food desert/food security gardens and community environmental issues. The ongoing projects with SSC are a rain garden project that accomplishes both flooding remediation and crime reduction by converting a hidden loop road into a California natives natural habitat; the design of a community tool shed built of natural materials, and a rain catchment bench. These projects are now leading to a focus on integrating more community needs into future projects, including self-built shelter dwellings combined with urban farming, alternative energy installations, and the associated skills training.

It is important to note that Richmond California is an urban city with significant problems of generational poverty, environmental pollution from local industry, two major freeways, freight trains, storm water and sewerage releases from low elevation interaction with the tidal flows of San Francisco Bay, substandard, absentee landlord housing, and drug/gang activities and violence. There are enclaves of middle class areas on the peripheral hills along the edges of the city, but the flatland majority of the city is rife with difficult social and environmental issues. For decades the city has thrown tens of millions of tax dollars at each of the problem areas, with little effect. It is this context that makes what Self-Sustaining Communities is doing all the more amazing.

What we have here is an authentic working model of a grassroots non-profit, successfully encouraging and guiding communities in low income, high crime areas of Richmond to create, expand and maintain natural landscapes and food-growing gardens on empty urban lots in their neighborhoods. Executive Director Linda Schneider’s goal with these projects is that they be hands-on, where the members of the community are learning to design and build for themselves, toward eventually taking on management of each site as they are completed.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

If you are looking for a non-profit that actually makes a difference. Look no further! Self Sustaining Communities takes on some of the greatest challenges facing the city of Richmond- access to affordable housing, availability of healthy food, building safe communities, etc and addresses them head on with great heart and ingenuity. Volunteers learn a lot and are greatly appreciated. Wonderful people involved!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Self Sustaining Communites takes a caring and wholistic approach to elevating the lives of people in the community. By providing resouces like providing thousands of fruit trees to impovrished areas and ideas like developing an aquaponics system, this non profit has created a real and meaningful difference.

Andy9

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have worked with this organization as an engineering resource, helping them actualize some of there more mechanically ambitious projects. The biggest project I have helped them complete is an Aquaponics system that lets them grow fruit, vegetables and fish in a highly efficient closed system. This project not only helps provide food for the local community but also shows how much can be done and grown in a very small space. Our completed project used a lot of found and re-used materials showing that you don't need massive amounts of resources to set up such a system. I am really looking forward to helping this organization provide other working systems (conventional gardening, more aquaponics, honey production, composting, chicken raising, etc...) that will serve the double duty of providing service to the community as well as modeling how more of the same can be built and maintained in an underserved urban setting.

Catherine20

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Linda is empowering the communities around her (in problem-plagued Richmond) to become more self-sustaining in terms of food (raised beds, fruit trees, chickens, fish&veg (aquaponics), building with local materials, collecting rainwater... and doing it all on a shoestring. People are getting inspired and fed while they find real community...

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Love to garden, give back, and raise chickens. Perfect Place.

Cici

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

For months I just passed by and enjoyed seeing the chickens and bunnies, and hearing the rooster crow from my apartment next to the freeway. I thought it was great to see an urban farm in an otherwise blighted neighborhood. I finally visited the farm on an evening when neighbors were invited to celebrate the new aquaponics system and the addition of the baby fish to provide some nutrients for the vegetables being grown in the little clay pebbles rather than being planted in soil. The majority of the vegetables are being grown in raised beds screened in with chicken wire. Varieties of lettuce, kale, tomatoes, carrots, beets, beans, and squash are growing. There are beehives, compost, and vertical towers growing potatoes. The hens knew when it was time to go into the henhouse for the night, and they started going in and lining up in a row on the perch of their own volition. I visited again a few weeks later and was amazed at how much the vegetables planted in the aquaponics shed had grown since the night we planted them. I also enjoyed some delicious honey harvested from one of the beehives. And I was delighted to learn that volunteers with this organization have planted fruit and nut trees along the sound wall on the neighborhood side of the freeway . In a society where it's cheaper to buy a fastfood burger than a salad, I think that making fresh vegetables and fruit available to folks in low income neighborhoods and familiarizing them with the process of growing good healthy food and the idea that this is something they can be involved in is really worthy project.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have coordinated several community events with this organization on behalf of a local government. They show the ability to produce resources and ideas that allow us to have a positive impact in the community.

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am very impressed with the organization Self Sustaining Communities because they are making a difference in the communities that they are serving. I went on a tour with the Executive Director Linda Schneider to four urban farms that she and her community members have established. What I saw at each location was excitement, happiness and hard work. Each urban farm is dedicated to providing a model of self-sufficiency to the neighborhood that they serve. This kind of dedication is contagious. I was inspired to assist one of the urban farmers in initiating a mural to be designed by a local high school student and painted by the El Cerrito High School Rotary interact club. The days that we have been onsite painting the mural we have observed the planting by neighborhood members and general enthusiasm for the farm. But an impact that I am also seeing is homeowners that are adjacent to the farm are painting there homes, and working on there yards. Caring is contagious the self sustaining communities organization is supporting this feeling in each neighborhood where they establish themselves.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Recently I learned of Self-sustaining Communities (SSC), an all volunteer effort working with low-income community members to provide food in distressed neighborhoods. I toured the small plots called urban farms, where fruit, nut and olive trees, as well as vegetables are being grown. There are also beehives, rabbits and chickens in varied stages of development. The latest project is hydroponics. The founder engages people in the neighborhood surrounding each farm to become involved as a supporting community. She envisions the possibility of a sustainable neighborhood where buildings could be purchased and units could povide housing to the homeless, formerly incarecerated or other challenged individuals. In the larger community, SSC has distributed to classrooms seed packets, as well as tree saplings, which were donated by growers through solicitation. SSC is educating the community on food production, environmental issues, and recycling, using sustainable methods.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This community of volunteers has changed lives for the better and changed a city. The Executive Director's vision, energy and political savvy combine with people who have the resources to make a real and sustainable difference in the world. Donated fruit and nut trees get planted, then are watered using Stanford-inspired technology. Low income neighbors become a self-sustaining community through building, planting and harvesting food. Diets are supplemented by eggs from their own chickens and honey from their own bees; aquaponics grow greens and fish for even better-balanced diets in what used to be food deserts. The whole fabric of the Community is thoughtfully connected to continue self-sustenance. Brilliant!

Review from Guidestar

Donor

Rating: 5

This small group has tremendous community impact. They create urban gardens in low-income, high crime neighborhoods, build rainwater harvesting systems that run on affordable solar panels, hold bee-keeping and chicken-keeping workshops, and distribute 1000s of fruit trees in downtrodden areas. They work with community residents to create a healthy and sustainable way of life. I have never seen a group that can do so much with so little. I can only imagine what they could do if they had more money.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have known the founder of this nonprofit for several years. In this difficult economy she had a goal of helping the poorest amongst us find a way to produce their own food. She began with distributing free fruit and nut trees and also seeds -- all of which she acquired by soliciting growers for donations. She and volunteers picked up those trees and handled the distributions. Her work has grown with the creation of a small urban farm with chickens, bees, community vegetable gardens and more. She seeks to involve those in the community to work in those gardens, learn how to produce food and make a beautiful environment using recycled materials and with sustainable methods. She arranges classes and demonstrations on her urban farm and is establishing other farm sites in our large city-- all with local volunteers. She also works with local city leaders to create and improve local environmental projects such as bio-swale sites. An important part of her work is that she lives and works in the difficult environment she is trying to transform.

Review from Guidestar