All posts by Karen Lally

MLK Day of Service 2019

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This MLK Day, CommunityGrows joined the African-American Arts and Culture Complex (AAACC) to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 2019 Day of Service. The event began at the AAACC with opening remarks from co-Executive Directors Melonie and Melorra Green, speakers Mayor Breed and District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown, a spoken word performance by Arvaughn Williams, and AAACC’s very own Bushmama Africa, who called on “the ancestors to create a cover of protection on us and reverence for our ancestors” (AAACC website). The morning set the tone for the rest of the day as volunteers split off into groups to work on service projects in the neighborhood.

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This year, over 40 volunteers came out to work on maintenance and beautification projects at Buchanan Mall, the Fillmore mini-park, and the AAACC parking lot and garden plots. Volunteers also were involved with a letter writing campaign to political prisoners and some joined artist Kristine Mays on a community art project (see her art installation, Brutally Soft, at AAACC Jan 17-March 24). Everyone did an amazing job and we are so grateful to all of the volunteers.

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Following the volunteer portion of the day was a (well deserved) community lunch. For the afternoon portion of the day, the AAACC had two film screenings for volunteers to learn more about political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur. Thank you to the presenters who started and facilitated the discussion.

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A huge shout-out to Pearci and the staff at AAACC for hosting this event, and thank you to all the volunteers who took time to come out and work with us. We appreciate your support and commitment to community.

2018 Highlights! (and what we’re looking forward to in 2019)

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“Today in the garden it was bright and sunny and so I was happy” – 4th grade student during garden reflection at the end of class. 

We are so grateful to our wonderful partners, dedicated staff, curious students, enthusiastic parents, advocates in the Green Team, generous supporters, and all of our committed volunteers!

We couldn’t do this type of work without people like you! On behalf of our students and staff, we thank you all for supporting our programs this past year! Here are our highlights from 2018 and things we’re looking forward to in 2019!

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Anna Luberoff / Garden Programs Manager

  • Highlight of 2018: During one class, a butterfly just landed so perfectly and gently on a kid’s hand. The look of awe and delight on his face was magical, and the whole class just froze in this perfect moment to witness a miracle. When it flew off, it felt like a spell was broken – like we had all been part of something truly beautiful and mysterious.
  • Looking Forward to in 2019: Digging deeper with my 4th and 5th graders into how our garden operates as part of a larger food system. I am excited to talk and engage with them more about the role the garden plays in our school, our community, our neighborhood, and our city, and to push them to think critically about the limitations of our current food systems.
  • I am also excited to have the BEETS working on and activating the Buchanan Mall I have a lot of hopes and dreams for the space and can’t wait to see how Debbie and the BEETS transform it!
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Yaya Persing / Garden and Nutrition Educator

  • Highlight of 2018:  finding a snail in the garden with five Kindergarteners who were unable to contain their excitement. They got the rest of their class so that we could observe the snail’s traits together for a while. Someone spontaneously started to imitate the snails movements, which seamlessly gave way to calling out other animals and moving like them too. One unsuspecting snail gave us all 30 minutes of awe and giggles in the garden. Kids are the coolest.
  • Looking Forward to in 2019: Buchanan Mall community events we are planning, especially Valentine’s day in the mall. Love is like the plants in our garden: resilient, it’s everywhere once you start looking, sometimes you can’t see it but it’s just getting ready to  bloom, and we can all be part of it!!!
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Emily Dial / Garden and Nutrition Educator

  • Highlight of 2018: serving salad to students, teachers, and staff on salad days has been a definite highlight. Everyone gets so excited and it’s great to see students try to identify foods that grow in the garden.
  • Looking Forward to in 2019:I can’t wait to meet and teach the kindergarten through 3rd grade students at John Muir! I’m sure they have plenty to teach me as well.
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Debbie Harris / BEETS Program Manager

  • Highlight of 2018:  
    -Establishing a full crew before 2019. We have ten students enrolled from 4 different high schools;
    -Bringing the BEETS to work with YAX and Kaili Gordan on the Mobile Meditation Pavilion;
    -Meeting with Citizen Film to help plan events on Buchanan Mall.
  • Looking Forward to in 2019:
    – The BEETS camping trip
    – Alcatraz Garden tour
    – Youth Speaks

 

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Karen Lally / Community Engagement Coordinator

  • Highlight of 2018: The MLK Jr. Day of Service volunteer event. It was fun to work with the African American Arts and Culture Complex, Citizen Film, and 3.9 Art Collective  doing projects with the volunteers in the garden. There were performances, different vol. stations, art projects, and a community lunch at the end. Plus it was a beautiful day!
  • Looking Forward to in 2019: This year I’m looking forward to community workdays, salad days in the garden, and meeting new folks as they come through our volunteer program!
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Kelly ErnstFriedman / Executive Director

  • Highlight of 2018: Meeting and getting to know prospective BEETS in the group interview. Interviews can be nerve wracking but Debbie created a welcoming and fun space for the teens to get to know each and learn about the program. It was really inspiring to hear what drew each of them to apply and what they hoped to accomplish in the next few months and also later in life. It was also really awesome to see how well they connected with each other, even though they were meeting for the first time.
  • Looking Forward to in 2019: Young people really do have so much to teach us and I can’t wait to get to know the BEET cohort better and see what they will accomplish this year. We have a lot of exciting opportunities to connect with residents on the Buchanan Mall and at Koshland Garden, and I think these teens are going to do an amazing job connecting with the community and sharing what all they are learning about food and environmental equity.

Hello BEETS, Mobile Meditation Pavilions, and 2019!

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BEETS at the Wreath and Card Making Event 12.16.18

In Case You Missed It… 

The BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated & Employable Teens) is an opportunity for teens to earn a stipend as they learn about environmental stewardship, experience nature, discover issues of food equity and environmental justice, and increase their personal well-being and that of their own neighborhood and community.

As part of the program, BEETS maintain sustainable community gardens, teach garden-based environmental education classes to younger learners, plan community outreach events, and build green spaces for and with residents in low-income neighborhoods. During each session, BEETS go on 10 field trips on weekends to places like Alemany Farms, Pie Ranch, Farmers Market, the Giant’s Garden at AT&T, and other places around the Bay Area!

So What’s on the Docket?

In addition to their twice weekly group cohorts, the BEETS are looking forward this month to visiting the gardens of Alcatraz and enjoying a breakfast at the Ferry Building farmer’s market. Aside from field trips, students said they were interested in learning more about GMO’s, growing organic, working with younger students and seniors, and different models of community gardening.

 

New Program Manager Debbie says that she is excited “to see how their interests develop as they become more comfortable in the program” and to hopefully to take the group camping sometime this winter! We can’t wait to see where the semester takes them!

Successfully pulling out the root of a sunflower!

YAX Mobile Meditation Presentation

In November, the Youth Art Exchange (YAX) teens presented their current project to the new BEETS members. This fall session the primary focus of the Advanced Architecture Firm students has been to design and build an outdoor mobile meditation pavilion in collaboration with CommunityGrows. A design build project, the parameter for the students has been to act as a youth architecture firm and lead CommunityGrows,“the client,” in an exploration and analysis of the site, the users, and the desired use outcome: an outdoor, collapsible, and transportable pavilion that holds 5 – 10 people and can be used for quiet reflection, meditation and teaching opportunities to be built and installed in Koshland Community park.

YAX students presenting on the Mobile Meditation designs.

The remaining steps for the project are to meet with the high school youth from CommunityGrows and present the final 2 designs, work with them to gain input and feedback, and collectively select the final design concept. Once this is decided the students will complete the build out of the pavilion and install on site in 2019. Stay tuned for more details!

Hot Apple Cider and Homemade DIY Decorations

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This weekend, folks braved the rain and came together with CommunityGrows for the annual wreath and card making event! The space was cozy under the tarps, with hot cider in hand, holiday music playing, and friends chatting as everyone created their masterpieces. We are so grateful to Hayes Valley Art Works and Friends of the Urban Forest for being so welcoming and sharing their space! 

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One of the best parts of the wreath and card making event is seeing everyone’s different personalities shine through their decorations and drawings! While some kept their wreath simple, others went bold and shiny, and others still created forest themed designs. One thing is certain though, each one had style!

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Bummed that you weren’t able to make it this year but still interested in learning how to make a homemade wreath? Check out:   37 Christmas Wreaths You Can DIY

Happy Holidays from all of us at CommunityGrows!

Health & Wellness & Sweet Potato Tacos

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At this week’s Mo’Magic meeting, Garden and Seed-to-Mouth educator Yaya made sweet potato tacos for the annual Health and Wellness presentation. Not only were the tacos delicious, but they looked beautiful too!

What is Mo’MAGIC? 

Mo’ MAGIC is a collaborative San Francisco neighborhood-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the community and youth through the MAGIC of collaboration.

About the Health and Wellness Presentation

The first presentation of the day focused on various personal and professional stresses, self-care routines, and actions to improve on healthy lifestyle choices. Aptly titled Holiday Blues Clues, their suggestions included (but was not limited to!): setting healthy work-life boundaries, asking for what you need, taking alone time, getting enough sleep, stretching, taking breaks, and giving compliments!

For more ideas, check out Self-Care Isn’t a One-Time Deal.

“Even hero’s need to eat!” – Yaya says about the “superhero” cohort of nonprofit providers. 

Cooking Demo by Yaya

To close the Health and Wellness presentation, Yaya made everyone a sweet potato taco! She started by asking everyone about their holiday comfort foods — think coco, chili, soup, breads – and offered this as her comfort food. A regular napper, Yaya  says this meal (delicious and light) gives her energy and keeps her going to the end of the day!

Try the full recipe — Sweet Potato Tacos!

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!