Civic Participation

Urban Sprouts

During the first year of the club’s new venture, a member of the committee discovered a young woman named Abigail Rosenheck who was single-handedly running a program called Urban Sprouts. Using her gardening background, she went into the public schools and helped set up school gardens. Although now commonplace, that first involvement of the club involved a “magnificent” feat to get past the San Francisco educational bureaucracy. 

The SFUSD ultimately decided to tack the program onto biology classes and it became the club’s first award within their new mission. Members visited a school on “Harvest Day” and were pleasantly surprised at how well it was going. Although the awards were somewhat modest, Urban Sprouts continued to receive them. 

Today the program has developed into an organization of dedicated helpers in a number of schools. Besides the obvious benefits of teaching children to garden, there is a long-term benefit for obesity. The subconscious plan is to get children to learn about and enjoy vegetables. If a child grows something and takes it home, the child not only teaches the family about nutrition but encourages it to eat better. The club continued to support a number of school garden programs.

Urban Sprouts is now administered by the San Francisco Parks Alliance and has expanded its programs to five middle and high school. One school is run by the juvenile justice system as a way to rehabilitate the young people. 

KIPP Schools

The motto for these private charter schools for students from poorer neighborhoods was “Knowledge is Power.” Part of the acceptance of students was that parents had to support the school’s programs. When they requested funds for a student’s garden, the club assisted them in their beginning years. It was made even better for all parties when the Catholic Church across from the school allowed their outdoor space to be used for the school garden. It was a winning proposition for all.

Hamilton Family

Jeff Kositsky, then San Francisco’s Homeless Director, was also in charge of the Hamilton House in the Tenderloin. He discovered the club and its program and made a presentation for creating a vegetable garden to help homeless children on the roof of Hamilton House. The club not only approved his presentation but continued it for another year in order to give the program a great start.

Hamilton Housing maintains housing in the Tenderloin for 20 homeless families in 2 apartment houses conjoined by a courtyard garden. Part of the benefit of living, even briefly, in such shelters is the possibility of safely enjoying the open air and attractive planting.

 

Tenderloin Developent

Through the Community Garden project, TNDC residents and community members gain access to fresh, healthy food and learn how to improve their health through better nutrition.

Aligning with The San Francisco Garden Club’s goals, this garden project beautifies the city, engages the community, and helps low-income people of all ages and ethnicities grow fresh food in the Tenderloin.

TNDC offers free use of five urban gardens. The largest and publicly accessible garden, the Tenderloin People’s Garden, is located across from City Hall. Community members can plant, tend, and harvest food at this garden; likewise residents living in one of four buildings with roof top gardens can also grow their own vegetables. The people’s Garden now includes a vertical garden. Over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce were produced last year in these gardens.

Friends of the Urban Forest

Together with Friends of the Urban Forest, the club planted trees in the Excelsior neighborhood. One time members went into the Excelsior with gloves and shovels and planted 50 trees in one day. Our efforts even made The Chronicle. 

Friends of the Urban Forest have accelerated their programs, planting trees throughout the City. Their effort is two-fold: planting trees for householders who put in just enough money to encourage their nurturing and hiring local teenagers to do the actual work.

Pitschel Prize

The late Barbara Pitschel, who died in 2010, was the head librarian at the Helen Crocker Russell Library of the SF Botanical Garden. She was a truly remarkable woman who approached every patron of the library with the same grave dignity and careful attention whether they were a 10 year old child or a poor street person who just came in to get out of the rain. With her husband Roland, they started the SF chapter of the California Native Plant Society. She held the meetings at her house, fed all the members for years and produced the monthly newsletter by herself. 

Her other major accomplishment was the restoration of Bernal Heights Open Space to its native state after years of being neglected and overrun with exotic weeds. She and Roland led this crusade and worked extremely hard at it.

When Barbara died, SFGC Historian Judith Taylor had a feeling that no one would remember how wonderful she had been and decided to commemorate her by setting up an essay competition in her name. It was decided to sponsor the contest for students at City College’s Environmental, Horticultural and Floristry School. Richard Turner, publisher of Pacific Horticulture, added a generous cash offer to the first prize and agreed to publish the winning essay in the magazine. The essays could be on any topic related to natural history in California, such as its flora, gardens, parks or even fauna. It was deliberately broad and there was one iron rule: any illustration had to be original and not taken from the internet. The first prize was $750, second $500 and third $250. The SF Botanical Garden gave a donation and our SFGC was also asked to participate. It gave $500, enough for the second prize. That sum stayed in the club’s budget for quite a while. 

Judith ran the competition very carefully, getting judges from out of state to read the submissions and grade them on a definite scale. At first things blossomed. The first winner had his essay printed in Pacific Horticulture and was overjoyed. He has gone on to an active career in commercial floristry. The number of entries has decreased since that first year but the enthusiasm has not. The prize has been given every year since 2011.

Other Civic Organizations

San Francisco Fall Antique Show

Each year the San Francisco Garden Club is represented at the San Francisco Fall Antique Show with an exquisite display of florals by our members. The club has been fortunately over these past few years to have its arrangements created by Ann Funsten and prominently displayed at the show’s entrance.

Fine Arts Museum Auxillary

Many of our members can be found also volunteering at the DeYoung Museum as Auxiliary members. The San Francisco Garden Club has been proud of members in leadership roles, especially from 2015-2021. There are members who serve on the Flower Committee, which weekly generates living florals for placement throughout the museums. While the club is annually officially represented at Bouquets to Art, other members also produce displays for various retail and civic organizations.

Other Organizations

San Francisco Garden Club members are involved in varying positions with numerous Bay Area Garden Auxiliaries and nonprofits, including the Ruth Bancroft Garden, the Marin Art and Garden Center, The Garden Club of Palo Alto, the Atherton & Tyldesley Botanical Gardens and Filoli Historic House and Garden. On the national scene, Sandra Swanson has been active in the Garden Conservancy for many years, serving in a variety of leadership positions.

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