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.
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!
Professional with expertise in this field
There is no other organization like this in the City! They are instrumental in bringing together community in the context of urban gardening. HVNPG effectively and creatively serves a diverse community while connecting with local schools, public housing, neighborhood groups and local merchants! The neighborhood and the City are richer because of this organization! Not to mention ma many youth that otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity get to learn how to grow food and then eat it and experience nature in the City!
Barbara Wenger's commitment to her Hayes Valley neighbors and community is inspiring. Her dedication to pursue safe, beautiful and inclusive parks for both learning and pleasure has never faltered. Barbara's consistency to lead through adversity has created new partnerships and relationships.
The Peace Wall is a living monument to those who have participated in sharing the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group's mission.
Thank you volunteers, staff and Board for your hard work and successful efforts, by which we benefit. To Barbara, without whose leadership we wouldn't be feeling the green grass between our toes or the wind in our air (as we swing), another thank you.
Professional with expertise in this field
I have known this group since the mid Nineties when Barbara Wenger first came to the Open Space Committee for funding for Koshland Park. Her perseverance finally wore the committee down and I have marveled at the same perseverance over the ensuing years. THe accoplishments of the group could not happen without a leader such as Barbara and the ,many volunteers who have responded to her calls for help.