All posts by Angelique Niyonkuru

Happy Martin Luther King Junior Day!

Martin Luther King Jr. day has become one of the most activated and volunteered days, and continues to motivate the community. Even after so many years, MLK has inspired most Americans to do better and unite for a better future.


On Monday, January 20th, 2020, CommunityGrows again had the opportunity to work and partner with the African American Arts & Culture Complex. This year, we gave back to our community by having our volunteers pick up trash and weeds from our AAACC garden. They also trimmed the trees and after the clean up, we had a chance to plant lettuce, green onions, purple flowers and more.


Lastly, we walked to Buchannan Mall Garden to clean it up and plant more lettuce, onions, and plants in those garden plots as well.

Thank you to our volunteers for giving back yesterday, we appreciate you as always. Hope to see you again next year!

Robert Pitts Workday!


The Robert Pitts Apartments is a very friendly and welcoming community. The residents are very involved and want to continue improving their spaces and create more community activities for  their future (and current!) families, children, and residents. We were honored to be invited to help the community transform their garden beds, together.


On Friday, October 20th, 2019, the Robert Pitts Apartment residents and CommunityGrows worked together to improve the garden beds. We cleaned up the garden for the new plants, deadheaded the plants growing there, and beautified the space. We added compost and blended it into the soil, which helps the new vegetables and seeds planted that day to have room to grow. After blending the soil, we then proceeded to plant a raspberry tree, lettuce, kale, and many different herbs.


Thank you Robert Pitts for including us in this wonderful event, we hope to be invited again in the future. Please enjoy these amazing pictures of the residents of Robert Pitts and some of our CommunityGrows staff helping the community, one garden bed at a time!

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Thank You Hall Capital!


On September 17th, 2019, CommunityGrows had the honor of working with some of Hall Capital staff, to work on  garden maintenance and beautification projects in the Buchanan Mall Garden. These group workdays are a huge help to our staff because it can be difficult to work on large garden projects between teaching classes, curriculum building, and day-to-day work tasks.


We divided into three groups to be more productive and get more projects done. One team worked in the African American Arts and Culture Complex (AAACC) garden- they were in charge of cleaning up the garden for the new plants, pruning and deadheading the plants growing there, and cleaning up the beds and sidewalks. The second team created garden journals for the students – they folded and stapled over 100 new journals! Last but not least, team compost- they walked to Rosa Parks Elementary School to go sifted and flipped both of the compost bins. The new sifted compost was then used to plant new plants in the Buchanan Mall Garden.


At the end of the day, we walked to Rosa Parks to end the workday appreciating our team members and hard workers from Hall Capital.


Once again, thank you Hall Capital and every member of CommunityGrows that came out! Hope to everyone there again next time!

Willie Mays Planting Day!

The Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club is located in the Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. This Boys & Girls Club is named after Willie Howard Mays Jr., a former MLB player for the San Francisco Giants. The garden at this location provides food for its community members, which is comprised of the students and staff members on site. If there is a particularly large harvest, the food is also shared with other Boys & Girls clubs in the area. While this garden has been established for several years, it has recently experienced revitalization through permanent maintenance by Community Grows.

On September 6, 2019 at one pm, the CommunityGrows team worked together at Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club to change and improve the onsite garden. They flipped the garden beds, planted new plants, as well as put in new irrigation for the community. At the start, we divided different teams to work on separate teams to flip beds, plant new plants and clean up around old plants therefore there is more room for the new and better plants. As the new kids are coming in for the new school year, we also would like to teach culture, roles, and methods to the youth at the Boys & Girls Club therefore they could invest and work together to better the community.

We hope to use some of the food harvested in cooking classes on site, to solidify student understanding of how food is grown, and encourage healthy ways of eating.

Westside Court Workday!


Westside Court Apartments is a very engaging community with committed residents who are activating the outdoor shared spaces. 

Westside courts is a pleasure to have in the neighborhood. I play basketball there a couple times a week (super convenient), and people are always friendly. It’s nice to come home to a neighborhood with something actually going on, whether it’s people heading to a friend’s place for dinner or kids skateboarding and shooting hoop on the court”


a community members expresses. The community members reached out to CommunityGrows to help rebuild their backyard garden beds  and plant new plants.

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On Friday, July 19, 2019, the community of Westside Court, CommunityGrows, and the Wu Yee Children’s Services had the honor of working together to help revitalize the outdoor community space. . We aerated the dirt (i.e digging in the old dirt so air circulates through) and we also used water to soften the dirt so it was easier to plant new plants. Afterward we prepped the dirt, we planted herbs, kale, peas, lettuce, radish, and mizuna lettuce. After we were done planting, the  kids’ volunteers, along with the help of the adults, got to water the new plants. 


The whole workday went amazingly due to the wonderful community volunteers who worked together to make a better garden for its community. Thank you to everyone who cooked and brought food to feed the hardworking people that day. Thank you to everyone who came out to help at the event or just came out to support. You are appreciated!


Our own Trailblazers!

Throughout the years women have worked in many different fields – and while they have historically been denied or struggled to gain access in certain sectors – it’s amazing to see how far women have come. At CommunityGrows, we are blessed to have two such amazing women – Barbara Wenger and Kelly ErnstFriedman. Wenger founded CommunityGrows in 1994, after working alongside neighbors and the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group for many years. While she faced many challenges in her position as Founder, she never stopped advocating for safe green spaces and outdoor learning. It is this history that Women Trailblazers is preserving – as told by some of the people who witnessed it.


Karen Lally, Operations and Development Manager at CommunityGrows, shares her memories of Barb: 

“Barb is such a warm, dedicated, and sincere person. One of the many things I appreciate about Barb is how passionate she is about this neighborhood- she speaks her mind and gives a lot of her time and energy doing hands-on work to create better spaces, programs, and even politics in SF. She cares deeply for her coworkers and friends, offering her time to support events, improve the feng shui in our office, have lunch dates, and check in with us regularly. I also love hearing about and seeing her artwork- not only does she take beautiful photos, but she paints as well. I’m amazed at all the things she has accomplished, all of the things she is now creating, and how much she shares herself and her gifts with the community! 


I didn’t “officially” work with Barb for that long, but her legacy and presence is still very much felt at CommunityGrows. Besides seeing her connect with so many people at community events (it seriously seems like she knows everyone!), one of my favorite memories of Barb was during the Rebuilding Together Prep Day 2019. This was one of my biggest projects with CommunityGrows and one that the whole staff spent a lot of time organizing and supporting. It was a beautiful day in April- the sun was shining, there was a breeze coming through the garden, and 30+ women had shown up on a Saturday to work on projects with us. Barb seemed really happy to see the space active and continuing to expand and grow with so many amazing women building, planting, and painting in the garden. I remember feeling happy that we pulled the project together, and I remember feeling grateful for her ideas and encouragement during the whole process. Thank you Barb, for all you have done, and continue to do, for us!”


Anna Luberoff, Garden Program Manager,  worked with Wenger over the past two years, expresses

“I remember so well the first time I ever met Barb, which was at my interview for the Rosa Parks Garden Educator position. I was talking about how much I love cover crop seeds, and she said, in a friendly way, “you might just be crazy enough for this job!” It was hilarious, but also made me realize that I was in the right place–you do have to have a healthy sense of humor to do this every day! I also remember being so blown away at Barb’s retirement party, which happened right after I started. It was so amazing to see so many people celebrating the work of such an amazing woman. It gave me such an appreciation for Barb’s passion for this work, for CG, and for her community. It also reminded me of the power of grassroots organizations like CG, and how important community is in creating positive change. Barb is one of a kind, and I always love seeing her at CG events (because I know I’ll get the best hug!)” 


When Wenger retired in 2017,  she left some very big shoes to be filled.. Happily, our current Executive Director Kelly ErnstFriedman was there to pick up the baton and has done a wonderful job in her position. ErnstFriedman has ten plus years experience in the non-profit and education fields. Prior to joining CommunityGrows in April 2014 as the Director of Programs, she was the Program Director for Food Shift, where she developed and oversaw a food recovery and donation program within the Oakland Unified School District and managed a staff of 36 interns and volunteers. ErnstFriedman has also served as a consultant for Bay Area non-profits, providing program development, strategic planning, and grant management leadership. In 2010, she completed her doctorate in Cultural Anthropology with a concentration in Race, Gender, and Social Justice at American University.

Anna shares these memories of her time working with Kelly:

“Kelly came into her role as ED at a very difficult time for CG. Not only has she steered us into better financial waters, but she did so with so much grace, poise, and positivity. I trust Kelly so much and know she always has our backs, no matter what. I know she’s taking us great places, and that she’ll do so honestly, with integrity, and with the best interests of her staff and the larger CG community in mind. She is a gifted leader, and I am so honored and delighted to get to work with her every day. Kelly is a gem!” 


Karen, who has been working with Kelly for just over 2 years, says this about Kelly:

“Kelly, in a word, is amazing. She has such a generous and thoughtful approach to leadership, always making a point to check-in and connects with the team. She is caring and kind, focused and dedicated, and takes on a lot to create a positive work and learning culture in CommunityGrows. One thing that has always impressed me about Kelly is her ability to “roll with the punches” and adapt to the chaos and change that is working in the nonprofit sector. Despite some stressful times, she continues to be a rock for our team and always shows up for CommunityGrows. We appreciate her so much! 

My favorite memories of Kelly are probably the little things that happen around the office from day to day. I remember when she was pregnant; Kelly had severe coffee envy and could sniff the air and accurately guess what flavor coffee I was drinking. I love our many, somewhat successful office-cleaning parties, where we set ambitious goals and never touch the filing cabinet (except to put more stuff in, of course). I love when she shows random funny videos and photos of her kids, and any time she reminisces about Texas- especially when the phrase “bless her heart” is involved. I laugh when I think about the time she taught me how to use Instagram and how excited we get whenever we figure out something IT/tech related. I felt very lucky and happy when she asked me to stay on after both my AmeriCorps contracts had ended, and I look forward to many more memories with CommunityGrows and the wonderful people who work here!”


We would to thank Barbara Wenger and Kelly ErnstFriedman for opening doors for all of us in the non-profit community, we appreciate all you do! 

I was very nervous before my first day at Community Grows. I arrived at our first meeting though and was greeted with baked goods and genuine conversation. Kindness, generosity, and warmth are standard practice here. It has been hard in the past to imagine a workplace where tons of things get done at the same time as valuing and practicing care and compassion, but now that I see it in action Kelly makes it look easy.” Ms. Persing says all of our thoughts when we first joined CommunityGrows. There could not  be better people to open these doors for us!

Community Barbecue

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” Edward Everett Hale. On July 10th, 2019, CommunityGrows had the honors to give back to our community and it could not have gone any better. Thank you to the amazing community members and other organizations that were able to attend the event, more than one hundred adults and kids attended. We had different stations for the kids to enjoy with there parents or the care takers that came with them. From “bean bag toss” to “planting seeds that they found in the fruits”, the kids enjoyed the games as well as the food. We had the privilege to feed and engage with kids from Up on Top and Beacon. Beacon is the YMCA Summer program therefore we had a couple of groups representing different schools.


We also would like to thank all the community members that came out to help celebrate the community. Thank you to the CommunityGrows staff and board members who did everything, thank you for giving back!


Please look out for next year’s Community BBQ, you don’t want to miss it!

Summer Recipe: Veggie Butterfly Snack

As we  all continue to enjoy this warm weather and everything that comes with it, here is a recipe that you can enjoy with your kids this summer :


Veggie Butterfly Snack


1 Celery

A spoonful SunButter

8-10 Blueberries

2 Pretzels

1 Cherry Tomato

1 Small Marshmallow

2 Tiny Chocolate Chips

(multiply amounts by number of kids)


  1. Wash and slice celery into approximately 6 inch sticks. 
  2. Spread SunButter or any non-allergen that can serve as a tasty adhesive (there are soy butter options as well!) down the middle of the celery stick, then press blueberries into the SunButter. This is the middle of your butterfly!
  3. For the butterfly eyes, cut your small marshmallows in half, and press the tiny chocolate chips into the non-sticky side of your marshmallow half. Take each eye and press it gently but firmly onto a dried cherry tomato. The eyes can be made many different ways, you can even purchase them pre-made.
  4. Now place the pretzel / wings into the SunButter on either side of the blueberries, press the cherry tomato head onto the end of the celery stick and you have a Veggie Butterfly!

You can use all kinds of vegetables for this project, such as raisins, berries, cucumbers, sweet peppers, carrots, as long as you’ve got some goggly eyes to go with it it’s going to be really fun and delicious.

Farewell & Thank You!

CommunityGrows would like to thank and wish our employees – Emily Dial and Debbie Harris – a grateful goodbye and our hope that they continue influence the community as they did with us! Both Emily and Debbie have gone out of their way to help and tend our community gardens.

Emily was our garden & nutrition educator at John Muir Elementary and Koshland Garden and says:

“Working with CommunityGrows this past year has been the experience of a lifetime. As I stepped into my role as Garden and Nutrition Educator this past October, I had no idea the way the position would transform me. I witnessed Koshland Garden flow and bloom and I could feel myself changing along side it. Through this evolution, I learned the ways that a garden and an educator serve many of the same purposes to a community. They can both provide radical abundance, transformative challenges, necessary refuge, and a source of reciprocal thriving.  As I head north to Canada to continue similar work, I will be taking many lessons of cyclical growth, teamwork, patience, and confidence with me. I hope that I am leaving behind a sense of empowerment with my students and the knowledge that they are as much stewards of this world as anyone else. All of this personal and professional development could not have happened without the community members, John Muir teachers, after-school program facilitators, fellow CG staff members, and, most importantly, students, who were so gracious and generous with their time, tales, and teachings. I am so incredibly grateful to all of you and will deeply miss this community and this organization. Thank you, CommunityGrows, for encouraging me to flourish, and please send your warmest thoughts to me in Toronto!”

    Emily-Dial-photo IMG_5670 (1)

Debbie was our BEETs Educator and Program Manager. She inspired so many teens in the program and taught them to love and appreciate the gardens and that, just like the garden, if you work hard and have patience, it will pay off.

“I learned that Community Grows is comprised of a really great staff that are dedicated to their work. I think the focus of the programming and the strength of staff makes for a really strong organization that is mission aligned. I did however miss farming terribly so I am managing the farm at Urban Adamah. I am pleased that I get to continue to work in the food justice movement that is in solidarity with the work of Community Grows. I hope we can find ways to share resources and strategies that build more resilient communities.”

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As they move to on to their next adventure, we thank them very much and we wish them the best on continuing to influence their new communities as they did with us!

2019 Youth BEETS and YAX Build a Mediation Pavilion

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Thanks to support from the San Francisco Arts Commission, our BEETS and teens from YAX  (Youth Art Exchange) collaborated with the Advanced Architecture Firm students to design and build an outdoor, mobile meditation pavilion: an outdoor, collapsible and transportable pavilion that holds five to ten people. It will be used for quiet reflection, meditation and teaching opportunities to be built, it is installed in Koshland Community Park.


To begin the project, the students spent time visiting the site and individually presented their findings of preferred locations for the project along with other site conditions. The students then met with Community Grows to understand the organizations needs, wants and wishes for the pavilion and came up with a list of parameters. Individually, through quick model making activities, the students explored spatial concepts, scale and geometries.

Following this initial research and schematic design the students were split into three groups, each covering a unique concept and presented their final designs, through drawings, inspiration images and models to a panel of professional architects and builders. With feedback and collectively assessing pro’s and con’s of each design the students decided to move forward with two concepts to build prototypes.

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The last steps for the project are to meet with the high school youth from Community Grows and present the final 2 designs; work with them to gain input and feedback and collectively select the final design concept. Once this was decided the students completed the build out of the pavilion and installed it on site on March 20th, 2019.

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The mobile meditation pavilion project has given the students invaluable knowledge and skills that has provided an understanding of both architecture and construction as well as the intersection through project and industry based learning. The youth architecture team has and will continue to explore their role in activating a community; providing social, economic and environmental benefits as engaged youth as designers and builders!  Congratulations to this year’s hard working BEETS, you are amazing. Thank you for this wonderful meditation pavilion for the community.

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