All posts by Karen Lally

#GivingTuesday 2019

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Goal $2,000

Raised $2,010 !!

What Is #GivingTuesday? 

#GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in countries around the world. Millions of people have come together to support and champion the causes they believe in and the communities in which they live. #GivingTuesday isn’t just about fundraising, it’s about communities banding together and giving of their time, power, skills, expertise and resources. It’s about the collective spirit of generosity that brings change to our communities.


Why Support CommunityGrows

CommunityGrows is a non-profit organization fiscally sponsored by the Tides Center and committed to cultivating healthy youth through growing gardens in low-income, diverse communities. Through our integrated programs – which combine garden education, nutritious cooking and eating, and work-based learning – youth acquire the necessary skills to live a healthy life for themselves, their families, and the environment. CommunityGrows serves over 1,300 kids each year with seven full time staff, two AmeriCorps VISTA, and many volunteers. Your support helps build our capacity, allowing us to deepen our roots in the community, build stronger relationships with our youth, and increase our impact. In short, a partnership with us grows healthier kids and a healthier planet.

Examples of #UNselfie photos!
Examples of #UNselfie photos!

Ways to Support!

  • Donate! As a nonprofit, we raise most of the money for our programs through grants and individual donations. Your support allows us to provide free garden and nutrition programming to our students and supports our BEETS teen workforce!
  • Share our Content! Looking for other ways to get involved? Help us widen our reach and share our content leading up to the event and on the actual day!
  • Create an #UNselfie! #UNselfie’s became really popular in the last couple of years to support nonprofits. Write out some text about why you donated or support CommunityGrows and then have a friend take a photo of you. Make this photo your profile picture and/or share it on your social media pages!
  • Tag 5 Friends! We’ve all scrolled past a post on a friend’s timeline, but that’s a little harder if you specifically reach out to friends! Even if they can’t donate at this time, it would be great to have folks continue to share about CommunityGrows and widen our impact!
  • “I’m Going!” Click that your are “attending” our Facebook event. The more people we have marked as attending, the more reach the post will have. This will also make the campaign visible to your Facebook followers.
  • Come to a Workday! Get involved with our programming by volunteering at one of our weekend workdays, community events, or classes.
  • Share this List! Have friends that are looking to support a nonprofit? Share this list with your friends, co-workers, book club, sports team, family, roommates, etc. so they can get involved in #GivingTuesday too!
  • Take a Break! You’ve spent so much time helping us out – spend some time for yourself! Maybe get some fresh air in the garden(:
Thank you!
Thank you!

National Rebuilding Day 2019: SheBuilds for the Community!

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As April comes to a close, we at CommunityGrows are celebrating the successful completion of a nearly year-long project with Rebuilding Together! The SheBuilds team joined us at Koshland Community Park and Learning Garden on National Rebuilding Day with the goal of  increasing the capacity and existing green space in the garden, as well as building on and revitalizing the awesome space that is already there. Over the course of two weekends, we had over 60 womxn donate their time, skills, and energy to beautifying the space for our neighbors and students, and we are thrilled with how the project turned out!

On April 27th, hundreds of volunteers mobilized around San Francisco (and thousands across the US) to take place in Rebuilding Together’s National Rebuilding Day event! CommunityGrows was lucky to partner with an amazing SheBuilds crew to tackle our garden projects. The main focus of our day was an underutilized hillside in the southwest corner of the garden. The prep crew cleared the hillside the weekend before, so on the build day we landscaped the top of the hill with native and pollinator plants, as well as 2 new fruit trees. On the lower, flatter half of the hillside, we built and installed 5 planter boxes to be used by new community gardeners.


“I really want to be on the planting crew – I think it’s really therapeutic to dig holes” – volunteer during project assignments


Other projects for the day included creating a chalkboard and welcome sign for the outdoor learning classroom; painting the garden shed; and completing a variety of garden projects to open up and beautify the space. The garden is totally transformed!


“Working in the garden, I forgot we were in San Francisco for a minute” – volunteer taking in the view from the hill outside the garden


This process has definitely been a team effort and we are very grateful for the hard work that all of the partners and volunteers have put into this project! A special shout-out to Rebuilding Together and SF Rec and Park for all of their help throughout the whole process, and thank you to PG&E and CalReleaf for their support! 

We hope to see you in the garden soon!

National Rebuilding Day 2019: Showing Our Love at Koshland

Second site visit for Rebuilding Together SF project.
Second site visit for Rebuilding Together SF project.

Rebuilding Together SF, SheBuilds. This April, Rebuilding Together San Francisco (RTSF) is working with CommunityGrows to build new garden plots, create a garden classroom, and revitalize the space at Koshland Community Park and Learning Garden. Since 1989, Rebuilding Together SF has “provide[d] home repair and renovation programs for their San Francisco neighbors, nonprofit organizations and community spaces. The work [they] do creates safer and healthier environments,” and this year will be including CommunityGrows as a nonprofit partner as part of their SheBuilds initiative.

All Women, No Boundaries. Each year, RTSF hosts an annual event called National Rebuilding Day during which they engage 300-500 volunteers over three weekends in April to make improvements on homes and community spaces around San Francisco. The SheBuilds programs complements the National Rebuilding Day by mobilizing women from different skilled trades, local companies, and partners to tackle projects with volunteer teams powered by women. CommunityGrows is very excited to work with RTSF and the SheBuilds volunteers to revitalize and increase the community and green space at Koshland!

© Rebuilding Together SF (SheBuilds campaign)
© Rebuilding Together SF (SheBuilds campaign)

The Project. Since the project scoping began back in 2018, the goal for the She Builds/ National Rebuilding Day is to increase the existing green space at Koshland and to build on and revitalize the awesome space that is already there. With the help of the SheBuilds volunteers, we will plant new trees, native plants, and pollinator plants in the underutilized SW corner of the garden; we will build new planter boxes for community gardeners; and we will create a new garden classroom for the students in our Environmental Education and Seed-to-Mouth programs. The project will create a space that will not only be educational for our students, but can be enjoyed neighbors and community members as well!

Pruning and clearing some space for new raised planter boxes!
Pruning and clearing some space for new raised planter boxes!

Our Thanks. This process has definitely been a team effort and we are very grateful for the support, time, and work that all of the partners have put into this project. So with that on our minds, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank a few people:

  • The student team from the Architecture & Community Design program at the University of San Francisco for creating the original plans and ideas on how to build out the space in the SW corner;
  • Our amazing liaison at Rec and Park for answering all of our questions, coming out to multiple site visits, and just generally for being amazing;
  • Rebuilding Together for guiding us through the process and providing the volunteers, materials, and knowledge to make this project possible – and to the CommunityGrows team of project leaders and skilled volunteers for working so hard on the planning and organizing;
  • To PG&E and the ReLeaf team for providing CommunityGrows with a grant to support this project;
  • And to our amazing educators at Koshland, whom we could not do this without!

There’s still a lot of work to be done before the build day, but we are excited and thankful for the amazing team surrounding us and everything that has been accomplished so far!

Neighborhood Love Day!

This Valentine’s Day, CommunityGrows joined the February festivities with a Neighborhood Love Day celebration! Hosted by the BEETS, students from partner programs and people from the community were invited to take part in some carnival themed games for the Hallmark holiday!


The teens worked as a group to plan the games in advance and create homemade decorations, ran the stations during the event, and took care of set-up and clean-up. They did a great job! Some of the favorite stations were the basketball competition, the scavenger hunt, musical chairs, card making station, and the Jeopardy game on the history of chocolate. The kids had a blast!


“I had one kid say that this is best field trip ever… another kid told me all the facts she learned about chocolate from the jeopardy game” – Anna, Garden Programs Manager and Rosa Parks educator.


A huge shout-out to the BEETS teens and Citizen Film for supporting and making this event possible, and to the Rosa Parks Senior Center for allowing us to use their space during the rain!  Thank you also to the neighbors and partner organizations who celebrated with us!

Happy Neighborhood Love Day! 

MLK Day of Service 2019


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. Our BEETS led two volunteer groups on the Mall and at the AAACC.


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.


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.


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)


“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!


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!

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!!!

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.

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



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!
Kelly (from pic with Barb and Kelly)

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!

BEETS at the Wreath and Card Making Event 12.16.18
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


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! 

BEETS at the Wreath and Card Making Event 12.16.18

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!


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


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!


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! 

joey the cat