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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Community Grows

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Nonprofit Overview

Mission: CommunityGrows is an environmental education program serving high-needs youth, especially those living in public housing in San Francisco.  Youth acquire the necessary skills to live a healthy life through garden education, nutritious cooking and eating, and green jobs training.

Results: Renovation of Rose-Page Mini Park-1999 Renovation of Koshland Park-2002 DPH-7 Principles Project-Infant Mortality Nutrition Grant-2003 Environmental Adventures-Urban kids Outdoors-2004-2005 Community Learning Garden-Koshland Park Upgrades-2007-2008 San Francisco PEACE WALL Installation-2007 John Muir Elementary School Green Schoolyard Project-1996-present BEET Rangers-Teen Stipended Envir Ed & Green Jobs Training-2007-present LetUsGrow Summer Camp-2006-present Seed-to-Mouth Cooking Classes at housing development and at Modern Tea Restaurant-2006-present Park Monthly Workdays-1994-present

Target demographics: low-income, high needs youth, especially those living in public housing in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhoods

Direct beneficiaries per year: 500 youth and 400 adults (from John Muir School, Hayes Valley North & South Redevelopment, YMCA Beacon Center, Park stewards and volunteers for five parks/gardens, families receiving produce, participants at events, workshops, celebrations).

Geographic areas served: Western Addition/Hayes Valley San Francisco

Programs: Koshland Park Community Learning Garden This garden is located in the lower part of Koshland Park, on the corner of Page and Buchanan Streets in San Francisco, CA. The garden is ground zero for most of our programs and serves hundreds of youth and neighbor each year. It is a 54- plot garden shared by the students of John Muir Elementary School and community gardeners. The primary goals of the Community Learning Garden are to help at-risk youth in the community to develop an understanding and passion for nature, to build core academic and interpersonal skills, and to create a sense of community and caring between neighborhood youth and adults. Environmental Education Classes • John Muir Elementary School-Western Addition Beacon Center and Hayes Valley Youth Center Our environmental education classes with John Muir Elementary School offer the Science Content Standards to all students. These classes help students improve their learning through hands-on experience and activities in the outdoor classroom at the Koshland Park Garden. Students also have an opportunity to continue their learning in our afterschool and summer programs. • Garden Workdays with groups, high schools and youth organizations Numerous groups, high schools and youth organizations work with CommunityGrows on a regular basis, bringing their youth to the Koshland Park garden for classes in gardening, composting and park maintenance. BEETS-Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens We are also hoping to continue our successful BEETS Program (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employed Teens), a green jobs training program for low-income, underserved teens in the Western Addition. This is a six-month stipend program that meets every other Saturday for six hours and every Wednesday after school (for 1.5 hours). Some of the activities include workshops on recycling (Norcal Transfer); nutrition (Next Course): composting (Garden for the Environment); bike maintenance (SF Bike Kitchen). There is also organic gardening, harvesting and cooking nutritional foods. There are field trips to Marin Headlands, Crissy Field, Alemany and Green Gulch Farms. SF Recreation and Park Department teaches participants how to use tools and assists them in maintain five local parks. LetUsGrow Summer Camp Begun in 2005, our environmental summer camp, LetUsGrow, offers youth and teen counselors, three weeks of garden fun. Camp started each day with breakfast donated by Kate’s Kitchen, which was followed by fieldtrips, gardening and arts activities and ending with a healthy lunch. Some of our adventures are trips to Green Gulch Farm in Marin County, Alemany Farm in San Francisco, the Arboretum, the Civic Center Farmers Market, painting watercolors of our garden, gardening, composting, and a graduation with our parents. Seed-to-Mouth Cooking Classes Begun in 2005 with weekly classes at Modern Tea Restaurant in Hayes Valley and at the Hayes Valley Housing Complex, CommunityGrows offers neighborhood youth and their families, opportunities to prepare delicious, healthy meals with produce harvested from the Koshland Park Garden. Western Addition Peace Wall at Koshland Park This project, started in 1998, brought together over 1,000 people, members of churches, schools, and community based organizations to learn a peace empowerment process that culminated in painting tiles of what peace means to each person. Through the integration of the visual arts, a curriculum and program was taught that focused on tolerance, understanding, and non-violence, and collectively learned ways to develop positive and proactive solutions to resolving conflicts and defusing anger. The project has been developed and implemented by residents for residents—a true community endeavor.

Community Stories

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


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!


Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

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!


Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

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

Rating: 5

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.