All posts by Karen Lally

3rd Annual Joey the Cat Fundraiser!

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CommunityGrows would like to thank everyone who joined us and supported our 3rd Annual Fall Fundraiser at Joey the Cat! The night was a huge success (we met and then surpassed our fundraising goals!)  as well as a fun way to celebrate a wonderful year with our friends, partners, and supporters.

We want to give a special thank you to Joey the Cat for donating the space and the games and to Kaiser Permanente for sponsoring such a great night! In between free play on skeeball, pinall, Pac Man, and other awesome arcade games, guests were able to buy raffle tickets and bid on some really cool auction items. (see a list of all our donors below!) Guests also took part in three rounds of skeeball tournaments, with a final All-Star round to determine the skeeball champion of the night! Congrats to all of our winners!

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We also would like to thank Salt & Straw for their donation of theme-appropriate apricot and thyme flavored ice cream and House Kombucha for donating delicious efferfescent drinks! (This summer we worked with Salt & Straw to create a BEETS Red Velvet Cake ice cream that ran in SF stores in August!) 

Thank you everyone! We could not do our work without amazing people like you supporting our staff and programs and we’re looking forward to a fantastic 2019!

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We want to take a moment and give a shout-out to all of the organizations that donated to make our event a success. We are so appreciative of your support and we could not have done it without you! 

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Bain and Co. Brings a Green Thumb to our Garden

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Last Friday, Bain and Co. joined CommunityGrows for a workday in Koshland garden! Though a bit overcast, the team jumped into the task list for the day and gave the garden a makeover, just in time for the start of classes. Read more about their workday below!

The day started with a group activity led by Garden Programs Manager, Anna. One of her favorite activities to do with the kids, Anna had everyone close their eyes and smell an herb as it was passed around the circle. Once everyone had the scent, they went into the garden to find the mystery plant. The activity not only gives students a tour of the garden space, but it also sharpens their observational skills. The team was able to identify and find both the basil and thyme! Well done, everyone!

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Hard at Work!

The group then broke into 3 teams to tackle some garden projects. Two teams worked on weeding and clearing sections of the garden to make room for new seedlings while a third team worked on pruning the fruit trees and raspberry bushes. We also had a few volunteers sifting and flipping compost! 

The workday ended with everyone planting lettuce starts and peas in the newly cleared beds and covered by the newly sifted compost! By the end of the workday, the garden had a complete facelift. Everything looks beautiful and ready for the Fall classes.

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Thank you to Bain and Co. for volunteering in the garden and supporting our programs! We hope to see you in the garden again soon! 

Volunteer Highlight: Autodesk Comes to Koshland

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It was a perfect Friday to get out of the office and into the gardens! Autodesk joined CommunityGrows last week for a workday at Koshland to get the garden in shape for the upcoming semester.

After a round of introductions, the team participated in a game led by Gardens Program Manager Anna. One of her favorite lessons to do with the kids, Anna asked everyone to close their eyes and smell two mystery herbs as they were passed around the circle. Once everyone had smelled the herbs, they went into the garden to try to find the plants. The lesson not only gives students a tour of the garden space, but also sharpens their observational skills. The team was able to identify and find both the thyme and lavender!

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The team was then split into three groups to tackle a range of projects in the garden:

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Team 1: Soil Samplers

CommunityGrows is in the early stages of a project to create in-ground beds in this underused corner of the garden. Autodesk helped us with that process by collecting soil samples, a task which would have taken a single staff member 1-2 hours to complete on their own! We greatly appreciate your help!

Team 2: Compost Turners

At Koshland, there are three marked bins to help students understand the process of composting. One bin is ready to use compost, one is breaking down, and one is “fresh” material. In order for compost to break down, it has to be turned, which Autodesk did for CG on Friday! The fresh compost was then spread into the garden plots, setting the stage for the students to plant!

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Team 3: The Weeders

Fall is a time for harvesting, and the plants from the summer were bolting and ready to be pulled. This team help weed over half of the garden plots, clearing these beds for the students, who will be planting as part of the garden class. This has been on the to-do list for quite some time. Having multiple volunteers working together made the job go quickly and the garden looks beautiful!

On behalf of CommunityGrows, we want to thank all the volunteers for their hard work in the garden! Your work made a huge impact on the garden and set our students and staff up for a great semester!

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It was a great way to end the week, especially when students from John Muir Elementary school came to explore the garden towards the end of the workday!

Thank you Autodesk, we appreciate your support!

4th Annual Choose Peace Festival

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CommunityGrows had the privilege of attending and taking part in the 4th annual Choose Peace Not Violence festival at the Ella Hutch Hill Center on August 25th. The sun was shining as friends, neighbors, and community organizations came together to listen to music, watch performances, and take part in the many activities offered by local organizations. The bouncy castle, face paints, and bubbles were definitely kid favorites, while many teens could be found skateboarding on the ramps brought by SF Skates.

At CommunityGrows’ table, visitors chose from lemon balm, rosemary, and white and culinary sage to craft their own herb bundles. The herbs, freshly cut that morning from the Buchanan Mall garden, were chosen because they help with relaxation, digestion, memory, concentration, and anxiety. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and introduced themselves – it was great to meet so many people who are interested in gardening!

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The festival also took time to remember Sharen Hewitt, an inspiring and committed activist who passed away earlier this year. Her family attended the festival and were given a plaque to honor her incredible dedication to and work for the community.  

Click photo to read more about her work and life from her 2010 Local Hero recognition.
Click photo to read more about her work and life from her 2010 Local Hero recognition.

Thank you to everyone who organized and took part in the festival this year. It was great to connect as a community!

2018 Recap: Summer in the Gardens

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“I want to be kind and protect all of the creatures in the garden! I love creatures!” — a student who affectionately referred to all insects in the garden as “creatures” and who may, one day, be an entomologist.

Fun in the Sun

CommunityGrows had a wonderful summer! We enjoyed working with youth from partner programs including the Village Project, Up on Top, Magic Zone, Willie Mays, Western Addition Beacon, Crissy Field Center, Buchanan YMCA, and Hayward Rec. We look forward to  an eventful Fall!

“At the beginning of class I was afraid of bugs! I’m not afraid anymore” — one student’s personal highlight following a garden class.

In total, we worked with about 120 students, learning about the life-cycle of plants, how to create healthy snacks, and harvesting beet plants for our BEETS Red Velvet Cake ice cream flavor at Salt and Straw!

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A special thank you to all of our partners, volunteers, and educators who made this summer a success!

Morgan Stanley Brings Sunshine to Our Gardens

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Summer is now upon us! As educators have come to know, the warm weather signals not only some well deserved vacation time, but also an opportunity to catch up with projects that were put on the back burner during the busy school year. Last week, two teams from Morgan Stanley volunteered with CommunityGrows staff to help us out with our summer projects in the gardens at Rosa Parks and Buchanan Mall.

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The day, which started out chilly and overcast, brightened up just in time for the start of the workday! During introductions, the two teams got to know each other with a creative icebreaker that tested both a person’s observations and descriptive skills as well as their artistic ability. In pairs of two, each person was asked to describe an object in nature to their partner who, in turn, was asked to draw the object being described to them. This exercise, one we also use in garden classes to help students focus and sharpen their own observation skills, often produces some interesting — and in some cases, entertaining — pieces of artwork.

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Following introductions, the large crew was broken down into two task forces. The first team headed over to the gardens at Rosa Parks Elementary School, where in-school garden lessons are taught. During the course of the day this team harvested vegetables, weeded the garden beds, turned the compost bins, and helped with general maintenance and planting projects. And they did an awesome job!

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The other team remained at Buchanan Mall working on beautification projects. In addition to planting, weeding, watering, and picking up trash, this team also created journals for the students who will be joining us for the summer session. Students use these journals to draw and label plants and to reflect on their time in the garden. The volunteers even added their own creative flair to the journals, taking clippings from the nearby plants to make the journals special for the students. Everything looked beautiful!

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In addition to their time and energy in the garden, Morgan Stanley also raised funds for our BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) program. As a group, their donation will go to support and cover the stipend of one BEETS member during the upcoming fall session.

On behalf of the staff at CommunityGrows, we want to thank Morgan Stanley for their support and engagement in both our programs and this workday! The gardens look wonderful, and their actions have set the stage for another great year with our students.

Three Cheers for the Green Team!

Green Team Members and Volunteers at Rosa Parks Salad Day – 3.14.2018
Green Team Members and Volunteers at Rosa Parks Salad Day – 3.14.2018

As the school year comes to a close, we want to share our gratitude and highlight the Rosa Parks Green Team.

This group of parents are incredible advocates for CommunityGrows’ programs at Rosa Parks Elementary School. They work behind the scenes on fundraising and outreach projects, they’re instrumental in planning and implementing monthly Salad Days with us, and they host garden workdays for Rosa Parks families and neighboring communities. We cannot thank them enough for all of their support and dedication!

The coming school year will bring some transitions within the Green Team, as their current lead member Jocelyn graduates after four years with the group. Green Team member Mie is excited to step into the role, and was kind enough to sit down and talk to us about her involvement with the program. 

Mie has been involved with the Green Team for the last three years. She was initially drawn to participate because of how they combined food, health, and the outdoors all in one program. She enjoys working with a program that engages all the students in the school and finds it rewarding to see the kids hugging the chickens, eating salad, and creating beautiful spaces on campus.

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On the role of the garden spaces at Rosa Parks Elementary, Mie says that the visual impact changes the feel of the campus, softening and beautifying the outdoor spaces. Accessible and inviting, all of the students get a chance to experience the garden classrooms each year during our seven-week environmental education and nutrition courses. Mie believes that eating well is a skill that all children should have the opportunity to learn, and that being able to see, taste, and learn from our Garden Educator, Anna, helps to get kids excited about the material they are being taught.

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For Mie, one of the best parts about being on Green Team are the weekend workdays. She is inspired by the dedication from the parents, some whom even stay late to finish projects! The bonding that happens at these events, in addition to the actual work done, strengthens the community identity at Rosa Parks. See photos from the Green Team’s latest workday below.

Rosa Parks Workday – 4.28.2018

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CommunityGrows gives three cheers for the Rosa Parks Green Team!

The BEETS: Not Just Gardeners

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In addition to their culinary, resume designing, gardening, and teaching skills, the BEETS added construction to their accomplishments this month!

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Our Rosa Parks Garden Educator Anna led the BEETS in the build, explaining about how ensure the wood was flush and how to properly use the drill.

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For many, this was a new experience — but for others, their skill at construction earned them the nickname Drill Sergeant (we appreciate the pun).

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Did you know that redwood is the best wood to use on raised garden boxes? It is less susceptible to rot and can last as long as 20 years.

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Though the planter was complete, the work was not done yet!

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The BEETS team then shoveled compost and soil and moved it into the newly finished planter box, in preparation for the following week’s community planting.

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All in all, it was another productive day outside for the BEETS!

We want to give a special thanks to Broadmoor Landscape Supply in South San Francisco for donating the compost, to Ashby Lumber for donating the lumber, and to U-Haul for donating a truck for the afternoon.

CG Volunteers: Always in Bloom

Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017
Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017

In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Week, we want to give a shout-out and a thank you to all of the neighbors, partners, businesses, and friends who have supported CG this past year. We could not do our work without your help, and we appreciate all of our volunteers for their time, their energy, and their commitment to our programs.

Read on to learn more about our volunteers and the different ways to get involved at CommunityGrows.

Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018

Program Volunteers

This year CommunityGrows has had the pleasure of working with 12 dedicated and knowledgeable program volunteers. These volunteers commit at least seven weeks of their time to supporting our programs and can be found in our gardens, offices, and kitchens working on projects that help to support our Environmental Education, Seed to Mouth, and BEETS programs.

CommunityGrows is grateful to have such committed volunteers working with us week after week cooking, weeding, watering, teaching, and working on special projects with our staff and students. Thank you all for your hard work!

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Rosa Parks Salad Day – 3.14.2018

Li started volunteering with CommunityGrows this January, helping to maintain the AAACC Garden and assisting with monthly salad days at Rosa Parks Elementary School.

Perhaps most importantly to me, though, was the inspiration and support I drew from the BEETS as I prepared and applied for grad school in a new field — a scary risk for someone in the middle of their career. The struggle of studying for tests, researching scholarships, and searching to find the right path forward in life was made easier because I was able to share and learn from the BEETS, who were all facing similar challenges.  

— Alana, BEETS Program Volunteer 2017-2018

Corporate Volunteers

In addition to our individual volunteers, CommunityGrows is fortunate to also have the support of local businesses and companies committed to giving back to community. This past year GAP, Bain & Co., Morgan Stanley, and Starbucks all participated in one or more workday events in our gardens. Their hard work and energy during the summer and early fall helped us to set the students up for a successful year. We appreciate their support!

Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018

Weekend Warriors

Finally, we want to highlight all of our weekend workday and special event volunteers who donate their time to move soil, plant vegetables, pick-up trash, turn compost, and do a host of other jobs in our community garden spaces. We couldn’t do it without you!

 

Photo: Gateway High School Workday – 9.29.2017

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MLK Day Workday – 1.15.2018
MLK Day Workday – 1.15.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017
Buchanan Mall Workday – 6.9.2017

We are so appreciative for the support and community involvement that you all have shown us. Thank you to all of our volunteers, both past and present!

Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018
Buchanan Mall Workday – 4.14.2018

A special shout-out to Citizen Film for hosting the latest Buchanan Mall workday on Saturday, April 14th, and to SF Rec & Park, the USF McCarthy Center, the Rosa Parks Senior Center, and all of the volunteers who came out to support and beautify the Mall.

Goodbye to Adrian and Melissa

Adrian and Melissa at a BEETS Orientation

After many years with CommunityGrows, we are saying goodbye to two of our wonderful staff members, Adrian and Melissa. 

While we are sad to see them go, we are so grateful to them both for all of their hard work and dedication! Read on to learn about their time at CG.

The Many Hats of Adrian

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Adrian wore many hats at CommunityGrows: first as a garden educator, then as a cooking instructor for our Seed to Mouth program, and ultimately overseeing our sites and environmental education programming as Garden Programs Manager.

He took an active and sincere interest in the well-being of his students and encouraged them throughout each session, making him well liked by both the students and staff at John Muir. He shared with us the following story from one of his lessons:

Once, at a Magic Zone class, we harvested fingerling potatoes from the garden. Mwane, a second grader, told me that he was going to go home and cook them with his mother and that they would be the best potatoes in the world.  I told him that he had done a great job helping to grow them and that maybe one day he would be a gardener, which I intended to be a career suggestion.  He looked at me very seriously and replied confidently,  “I already am.”

It is moments like these that demonstrate the confidence that our program is instilling in our youth. These moments are hard to quantify in terms of metrics but are truly priceless in their measurement of the impact we are making.

— Adrian Almquist

His presence at Koshland Garden as both educator and gardener will be missed!

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In addition to their roles at CommunityGrows, both Melissa and Adrian were mentors at John Muir Elementary, kept active with the Koshland community gardeners, and often worked with volunteers at weekend events, making Koshland Park and Learning Garden a beautiful and relaxing place for everyone to enjoy.

Melissa in Action

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Melissa was also deeply involved at both CommunityGrows and John Muir Elementary, having led our BEETS teen program for four years before becoming Director of Programs in 2017.

Her dedication and leadership of the BEETS program inspired students to set and meet personal and professional goals. At the end of each session, Melissa asked the teens to reflect on their experience participating in the program. 

To me, the garden represents a place for growth and new beginnings. It’s a place where someone can go to learn something new and meet new people. What I enjoyed most was watching things change. I liked seeing how much progress plants make even if we don’t usually see them growing in reality. Like garden, our lives are constantly changing. We don’t recognize change in ourselves but it’s there. We just need to look back to see how much we’ve grown. I think I’ve really improved on my ability to express my opinions. I’ve learned that being part of a group requires a lot of listening and observing, which I’ve improved on greatly. Ultimately, I’ve learned that working doesn’t necessarily need to be just “working” if you find the balance of friendship and responsibility.

— Gene, 2016-2017 BEETS Participant

Garden reflections from Melissa’s students showed steady growth and a shift of perspective when compared to their responses from the start of the program. Her guidance and support made a huge impact during Melissa’s time with CommunityGrows.

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Thank you, Adrian and Melissa! We wish you both the best!