Tag: non-profit organization

Planting Justice: Urban Farming Nonprofit in Oakland Helps Ex-Cons Re-enter Society

Anthony Forrest spent 25 years in prison before joining Planting Justice. “Working in the garden calms me down,” he said. (Credit: Jason Henry for The New York Times)

by Patricia Leigh Brown via nytimes.com

OAKLAND, Calif. — Even by the standards of the Bay Area, where sourcing local, organic chicken feed is seen as something of a political act, the spectacle of 30,000 fruit and nut trees being tended by formerly incarcerated orchardists is novel.

The green thumbs are there because of Planting Justice, a nine-year-old nonprofit that combines urban farming with environmental education and jobs for ex-offenders. From its headquarters in a pair of salvaged shipping containers on a dead-end street in East Oakland, Calif., Planting Justice has forged a trail in which revenue-generating businesses help subsidize the group’s core mission: hiring former inmates, many from nearby San Quentin State Prison, and giving them a “family sustaining” wage, along with health benefits and a month of paid leave annually. About half the total staff of 30 have served time in prison.

Two years ago, the group’s founders — Gavin Raders, 35, and Haleh Zandi, 34 — established an orchard on a weedy, vacant lot in this area of stubborn poverty, where the pruning is serenaded not by birds but droning trucks from the adjacent freeway. Planting Justice’s Rolling River Nursery now sells and ships some 1,100 varieties of potted trees and plants — among them, 65 different kinds of pomegranates, 60 varieties of figs, and loads of harder-to-find species such as jujubes (Chinese dates), Japanese ume plums and rue, an aromatic herb used in Ethiopian coffee. Signs warn visitors that they have entered a pesticide- and soda-free zone.

Though still young, the organic orchard generates roughly $250,000 of Planting Justice’s yearly $2 million operating budget. Another $250,000 comes from an edible landscaping business, in which roving horticulturalists hired by well-off clients install beehives, fruit trees, chicken coops, massive barrels for harvesting rain water and “laundry to landscaping” systems that funnel used washing machine water into the garden. The money helps subsidize pro bono edible landscapes in low-income neighborhoods.

In addition, there are the 2,000 or so “subscribers” who make monthly pledges to Planting Justice, which brings in another $450,000 annually, and grants from a variety of nonprofit organizations, among them the Kresge FreshLo program, the Thomas J. Long Foundation and Kaiser Permanente’s community benefit programs.

Planting Justice cultivates metaphors along with the food. “We’re composting and weeding the things in our lives we don’t need and fertilizing the parts of ourselves we do need,” Mr. Raders explained, sitting on a eucalyptus stump.

The guiding principle: kale, not jail.

Continue reading “Planting Justice: Urban Farming Nonprofit in Oakland Helps Ex-Cons Re-enter Society”

Darren Walker to be Named President of the Ford Foundation

Darren Walker (pictured above)  was born in a charity hospital in Lafayette, La., and grew up in the 1960s in a single-parent household in rural Texas, where his mother worked as a nurse’s aide and he was enrolled in one of the first Head Start programs. He went on to the University of Texas at Austin with help from a Pell grant scholarship, awarded to low-income students based on financial need. He put in a few years at a prestigious Manhattan law firm and a Wall Street investment bank. Then he moved into the nonprofit world, first in Harlem, where, among other things, he worked on the project to build the first full-service supermarket there in a generation.

On Thursday, Mr. Walker, 53, will take the next step in a career that has taken him from Harlem to world-famous foundations five and a half miles away in Midtown Manhattan. He is to be named president of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second-largest philanthropic organization. He will succeed Luis Ubiñas, who announced in March that he would step down. For Mr. Walker, the new job is a promotion. He has been a vice president at Ford since 2010, when Mr. Ubiñas hired him away from the Rockefeller Foundation, where Mr. Walker had worked for several years, also as a vice president.

Continue reading “Darren Walker to be Named President of the Ford Foundation”

Diggy Simmons Talks About His Graduation Plans, Why Education Is Important

If you know anything about the Simmons household it’s this; yes, they are all talented and musically inclined, but education comes FIRST.

That’s why the non-profit organization, Get Schooled, is collaborating with rapper Diggy Simmons to engage and inspire the youth to help them excel in school and imporve graduation rates.

And – speaking of graduation – guess who is about to walk across that stage?

So we had to get the details straight from Diggy about his plans after high school, why he thinks education is important, and of course, if there are any graduation parties.

We caught him right after he played Celebrity Principal for the day at Baltimore’s New Era Academy with the Get Schooled foundation. Here’s what he had to say.

How did the title “Principal Diggy” sound to you?

It was incredible. I don’t know if they ever did anything like this but I was happy I got to be a part of it and we answered questions and we were just talking about school and the importance of education, and I’m just so happy for them. The fact that they have perfect attendance and I got to come here for that and just the fact that I can do that and I can be a part was just a real big deal for me.

What are you’re favorite subjects or subject?

My favorite is English. I’ve always liked English. English is dope.

So you like to read?

Yea. I like a lot of the books that I get. I just like writing – like creative writing- and that’s where it lead into why I love writing music so much. I’ve liked history a lot too this year. I’ve taken a liking to it.

Another month you’re graduating high school. How’s that feel?

Yes, yes, yep! It’s a good feeling man. I mean, just from starting school all the way up ’till now it’s like I’ve really done it and I’m really doing it and I’m happy that I have people around me who care. And through them caring and letting me know the importance, it made me care and know the importance and that has carried into me being a young adult and wanting the best for myself.

Continue reading “Diggy Simmons Talks About His Graduation Plans, Why Education Is Important”

Chicago Woman Helps Minority Girls Access Careers in Science, Math, And Technology

Jackie Lomax girls 4 science

Jackie Lomax, Founder of Girls 4 Science

When Jackie Lomax learned that her daughter wanted to be a dentist, she was thrilled. But soon she found the resources weren’t available to help her daughter achieve her dreams. That’s why Lomax started Girls 4 Science in 2009. The non-profit organization helps minority girls from the ages of 10 to 18 develop an interest in science, math, and education. It is the only all-girls science program in Chicago.

“There is a big gap in underserved communities,” Lomax told ABC. “When we talk about resources, we talk about opportunity as well as the potential to see future role models.”  There is a persistent gender gap when it comes to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Women hold only 24 percent of the jobs in those fields even though they hold 50 percent of the jobs in the country, according to the Commerce Department. Women also hold a disproportionately low amount of degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, especially engineering.

Continue reading “Chicago Woman Helps Minority Girls Access Careers in Science, Math, And Technology”