Tag Archives: #appreciation

Thank You, Angelique


CommunityGrows is saying goodbye and thank you this week to a wonderful team member and friend, Angelique (Marketing and Communications Coordinator). Angelique joined the CG team last February through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. She immediately jumped into things, not only helping to coordinate and capture the Rebuilding Together SHE Builds event at Koshland, but also built a new planter box with the volunteers!

IMG_2174 (1)
IMG_2145 (1)

In the following months, Angelique became involved in all parts of CommunityGrows – she attended partner events, joined the summer festivals, volunteered with the garden and cooking classes, and took over all the social media accounts! She made some great graphics, blogs, and flyers, and put a lot of energy into updating the website and marketing materials.


I moved to San Francisco to find a job I loved after college. I never thought that I would find a perfect job in my in my 20s. CommunityGrows has helped me change and grow in so many better ways. I learned so many things through my coworkers, educators, parents, The BEETS, as well as the kids that I worked with. Thank you to all the amazing and wonderful people I met and worked with, I wish that everyone can experience the love that I received.” – Angelique 

Though we’re sad to see her go right now, we want to celebrate what a wonderful year it has been. Angelique says she will still be around volunteering and visiting! Thank you again, all of us at CommunityGrows wish you the very best!

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!

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.”

44500882245_63aba0740c_o   IMG_3752 (1)

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!

National Rebuilding Day 2019: SheBuilds for the Community!

She2019bd (2)

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!

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.

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!

20181003_194056 (1)

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!

20181003_194024 (1)

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

2018 Recap: Summer in the Gardens


“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!


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

IMG_1358 (1)

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.


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.


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!


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!


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.

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!


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

Thank you!
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.