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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

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

31

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I think it is great Barbara's group is stepping up it's focus on youth programming. Under HVNPG stewardship the neighborhood parks have been turned and are looking great again. Now the task is to develop leadership skills in the youth to keep the momentum moving forward.

25 Gatekeeper

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love Koshland Park and the other parks that comprise the Hayes Valley Neighborhood PARKS Group. I live on the same block as Koshland Park, and walk my dogs there in the morning and most evenings. About 3 or 4 years ago, Barbara Wenger asked if I wanted to volunteer and open the terraced part of the park in the morning, and relunctantly I agreed. Since then, I've been opening Koshland Park nearly every morning, and take pride in my role. I enjoy providing this service to my neighbors and the neighborhood! Opening the park makes me feel part of a larger community as so many of us enjoy Koshland Park differently. Over the years, I have met many people and have made some good friends too! In the morning, I open the park for my fellow dog-walkers and their beloved furry friends. I also open the park for some neighbors who practice Tai Chi. Occasionally they will break their pose to say goodmorning or pat a dog on the head. The gardeners who have plots in Koshland Park are also very pleasant and have often given me flowers or herbs to show their appreciation for my role as "gatekeeper". In general, HVNPG brings neighbors of all walks of life together. Our parks are great for communities, neighbors, families and visitors. They serve as our backyards and withouth HVNPG the quality of life in Hayes Valley would not be as rich. Thanks again HVNPG!

24

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A terrific resource in my neighborhood. It enriched my life tremendously. This group helps our neighborhood to stay clean, provides a safe park where I can sit and relax and listen to the birds.

22

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group brings beauty to our community while also providing a great place to grow your own food and learn from others. They are so open with information and tips about gardening and it feels great to be a part of making this area a better place for everyone to live in.

23 gail

Volunteer

Rating: 5

With Barbara's leadership over the years, the Hayes Valley Neighborhood PARKS Group has made a major impact on the lives of the people who live here. Our children are finding purpose in their lives by nurturing seedlings and gardens. The gardens the residents maintain as volunteers fill them with pride. All residents, young and old, are finding common ground and ownership in taking back our neighborhood from years of neglect. This HVPG organization has played a key role in showing the way how to provide a vision, create the plan, and lead the people. May other city garden orgaizations learn from the master!! BRAVO!! Gail Baugh, Hayes Valley

22

Volunteer

Rating: 4

One thing to add, I only recently moved to Hayes Valley and wanted to know who was "in charge" of the Patricia's Green to that I could make it "my own" too. HVNPG was one of the handful of community based groups that encouraged me to "take charge" and facilitated my contacts with the city's Rec and Park department and other players. Last month, with help, I organized a Patricia's Green Clean Up and have scheduled two more through November. At this past event there were twenty members of the neighborhood and their friends with the full cooperation of Rec and Park gardener. And as somewhat of a bonus (as surprise to me) also present was the Rec and Parks volunteer coordinator, two custodial workers, two department supervisors, tools, plants, mulch for everyone's enjoyment. The best part of the deal was pruning of the palm trees and a much needed power washing of the paving and furniture. And all for making a few phone calls!

27

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteer here on Citizen Patrol and I also do a clown, Curly the Clown, for different nonprofit community events, like play days in the parks and things like that. *This review collected during the 7th Annual Western Addition National Night Out and entered by GreatNonprofits staff on behalf of the reviewer

21

Volunteer

Rating: 4

HVNPG was charged with encouraging the rebirth of a group of Hayes Valley Parks when the surrounding SFHA projects were slated for redevelopment. The group has transformed three parks nearest to Hayes Valley North and South housing developments to lovely spaces accessible to everyone in the case of Koshland Park and Page St. Park and provided private garden plots to serious greenthumbers in what was once an empty lot close to John Muir School. Young kids from the school have science classes conducted in the learning garden and older kids, the BEET Rangers, are provided H.S. credit and stipends to maintain a regular work schedule maintaining the garden landscaping.

23

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I got involved with the Koshland Garden and they try to keep up, cleaning up. Right now they;re trying to do a peace wall and open up the park. I help in the garden, tidy up and do the maintenance, and I like to get involved. They try so many different activities and different things. Barbara [of HVNPG] is a great person, doing whatever she can for the community. *This review collected during the 7th Annual Western Addition National Night Out and entered by GreatNonprofits staff on behalf of the reviewer