How green is your garden? If you live in Brooklyn—home to 50 percent of New York City’s community gardeners—chances are pretty good that your neighborhood is home to deep shades of kale, spinach and mint, with splashes of yellow corn, red tomato, and blueberry.
In support of the Brooklynites who are tilling and toiling for a healthier and greener borough, the Brooklyn Community Foundation has distributed a series of micro-grants via its Brooklyn Community Garden Fund and Brooklyn Spring Match—two new funding opportunities announced last March. In total, the Foundation is funding 37 neighborhood groups at nearly $15,000 to improve the borough’s community gardens, open space, and parks, as well as to promote environmental education and conservation efforts.
“As a community foundation, one of our primary giving areas is Green Communities,” said Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber. “Although Brooklyn has the lowest percentage of land devoted to parks in New York City, half of the city’s community gardeners are here and more than 70 percent of them live in low income neighborhoods. Our residents are motivated to improve the health of their communities, literally taking on this issue at the grassroots level, and we back their work wholeheartedly.”
The Brooklyn Community Garden Fund was designed as a new funding channel for Brooklyn’s Green Thumb community garden groups, which typically are not registered nonprofits and have no full time staff and limited operating budgets. The fund is a collaboration with Green Guerillas, a citywide organization that empowers community garden groups, and provided 29 grants ranging from $250 to $500 for new tools, sheds, wheelbarrows and chicken coops, as well as events and programs for garden neighbors.
"The Brooklyn Community Garden Fund comes at a very opportune time. Brooklyn's community gardeners are stepping up to meet the challenges facing their neighborhoods. They are growing more food, teaching more kids, cultivating more community than ever," said Steve Frillmann, executive director of Green Guerillas. "These grants will help them improve their community gardens and provide vital services to their neighbors."
Gemma Garcia of grant recipient St. John Cantius Community Garden in East New York: “We wanted to redo the front garden to make it more inviting to anyone passing in front so that they would want to come in and take a look, sit and relax, and maybe become a member and get involved in growing healthy food and vegetables.”
“We don’t really have a huge budget. Like most community gardens we depend on volunteers and donations,” added Jon Crow of grant recipient Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden. “We’ve been spending a lot of money on free standing gazebos over the years and this will allow us to build something sturdier and permanent that has the added environmental feature of being a water collector.”
The 2011 Brooklyn Spring Match is a partnership with ioby (In Our Back Yards), a nonprofit that connects New Yorkers to environmental projects in their own neighborhoods through a crowd-resourcing platform, www.ioby.org. From April 11-May 6, 2011, the Foundation matched online donations to eight ioby Brooklyn projects dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000 total. Six of the projects were fully funded, including the expansion of P.S. 107’s Sunshine Garden, 500 Hancock St. Block Association’s Spring Cleaning and Planting Week, and a new composting system for Prospect Farm—a formerly vacant lot in Windsor Terrace working toward becoming a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
"We could not be happier to have the Brooklyn Community Foundation as a matching funder this past spring to double the support to volunteer-led environmental projects in Brooklyn," says Erin Barnes, ioby Co-Founder and Executive Director. "One in three environmental projects in NYC is run on less than $1,000 a year and more than half are run by volunteers. We're excited to be able to have a match fund available for projects just like this in Brooklyn, where ioby was founded."
The Brooklyn Community Foundation plans to announce similar Green Communities Fun micro-grant opportunities this fall.
About Brooklyn Community Foundation
Brooklyn Community Foundation's mission is to improve the lives of people in Brooklyn by strengthening communities through local giving, grantmaking and community service. The first and only one of its kind in Brooklyn, the Foundation was founded in 2009 to support the borough's most effective nonprofits in five Field of Interest Funds: Arts for All, Caring Neighbors, Community Development, Education and Youth Achievement, and Green Communities. Thanks to a start-up gift from the Independence Community Foundation, 100% of all donations to the Brooklyn Community Foundation are tax deductable.
ioby is an environmental nonprofit that connects New Yorkers to environmental projects in their own neighborhoods through a crowd-resourcing platform, ioby.org. On ioby, you can make a donation or volunteer with a project close to your home or close to your heart.
About Green Guerillas
For the past 37 years Green Guerillas has helped people of all ages create, cultivate, and strengthen community gardens as neighborhood parks, urban farms, and outdoor educational centers.