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Finding Serenity

For many of us, when in need some serenity, we seek fresh air and solitude in a special outdoor space.  But for some, especially the clients of North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI), the largest AIDS service organization in Newark, finding some quiet outdoor space is difficult, if not impossible.

That’s why Brian McGovern, CEO of NJCRI, reached out to Greater Newark Conservancy.  According to Brian, “many of our clients have limited or no access to green space” and are “often too busy in their lives to slow down” to find the serenity that an outdoor space can bring.  Funded through the Central Ward Garden Initiative, the Conservancy designed and built a peaceful, zen-like memorial garden — adjacent to NJCRI and in the middle of Newark’s Central Ward — for NJCRI clients to retreat to for quiet time, prayer, meditation, or just private contemplation.  In addition to looking nice and providing peaceful space for clients, Brian says, the memorial garden “is an investment in the community and brings people together.”

Help us continue our work in building transformative urban environments! No matter what the amount, every penny counts!   We are so close to reaching our goal of 50 individual donations through the Jersey Give Back Guide’s GenerosityGenerator. Once we get those 50 donations we will win a $1000 matching grant from the Dodge Foundation!

Take That to the Bank!

At the Conservancy, our mission is to grow more than plants, trees, gardens and farms.  We also work to grow people – like Gerardo, a budding techie and generous young man who is a sophomore at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Gerardo has been an intern in our Newark Youth Leadership Project (NYLP) since 2010.  NYLP provides Newark high school and college students with income, a supportive work environment, help in preparing for and applying to college, and leadership development – opportunities that are not always easy to come by for many of our participants.

Gerardo says the Conservancy “feels like family” and a place where he “always felt supported.”  That support was critical at times.  Gerardo had an enormous burden in being the only member of his family who was employed.  And he found refuge and comfort at the Conservancy when his family was homeless. 
When it came time to apply for colleges, Gerardo did not set his hopes high because he believed there was no way to afford it.  Learning of this, the Conservancy staff and Board pulled together to help Gerardo secure a four-year scholarship at FDU.

Gerardo earned this loyalty.  With his family in dire financial straits, he returned a $7,000 Conservancy check issued to him in error.   Now his goal is to earn “my own $7,000 check—one that I can cash!”

Please visit the Jersey Give Back Guide to make a donation and help us continue our leadership programs for youth like Gerardo.  You will be glad you did.
And meet Gerardo in the gardens of our Outdoor Learning Center in a recent episode of the Aqua Kids TV series!

"Eating Like A Rich Person"

Tracie never considered herself a gardener.  About a year ago, she began to "dabble" in gardening by watering and weeding at a community garden in the South Ward.  Hungry for knowledge, she became what she calls "an internet gardener" – learning as much as she could from the internet while developing a container garden.  Soon after, she met the Conservancy's Greening Director, Justin Allen, at a church event.  When she learned she could lease raised beds through the Conservancy's Plot If Fresh program, she undertook her biggest gardening adventure yet – a couple of plots at the Hawthorne Avenue farm.

Tracie grows a variety of crops – mustard greens, basil, sweet potato, cauliflower, lettuce, tatsoi, and bok choy – but her favorites are Swiss chard and turnips.  To supplement her harvest, she regularly visits the Conservancy's Youth Farm Stand, where the interns know her well.   (See some our Youth Farm Stand interns above!)

She once shied away from organic produce at large grocery stores because they were too pricey. Now, however, "growing my own veggies, I avoid pesticides and can eat how I want," she says. In fact, when she sits down to a meal comprised largely of her impeccably fresh, heirloom-variety vegetables, she says she feels like she is "eating like a rich person!"  And Tracie is not the only one enjoying the fruits of her labors.She generously shares her bounty with friends and neighbors, especially the local seniors.

Another benefit of her new-found avocation, Tracie says, is that she is thinking healthier overall. In her garden she learned to use castile soap as a natural pesticide, is making her own hand gel and sanitizer, and using more natural remedies.  Tracie feels "greener all around."

The Conservancy now has over 150 beds at that the Hawthorne Avenue farm, with a waiting list from other community members who are eager to get started.

Please consider donating to support our community farming work. No matter what the amount, every penny counts!   And your donation can go even further.  When fifty individuals donate through the Generosity Generator we will win a $1000 matching grant from the Dodge Foundation!

Do you believe in second chances?

On the day Asim came home from a four year prison term at age 25, he was immediately given custody of his seven year old son, and, as he recalls, had “no job, no money, and just the shirt on my back.”  Asim was resolute that he was not going back to prison nor to his prior life that led him there.  But he didn’t know how he was going to pull that off.
Within a couple of months, he was referred by a friend to the City of Newark’s Office of Reentry, which connected him to Greater Newark Conservancy’s Clean and Green program.  Through Clean and Green, a thirteen week transitional jobs program, Asim earned a modest salary while learning basic horticultural and landscaping techniques. He saved as much as he could – enough to take a course in personal training and to get his driver’s license back. 
With an impeccable work ethic, near perfect attendance, and willingness to stay beyond scheduled hours to get the job done, Asim made a marked impression on his supervisors.  When there was an opening for an Urban Farmer at the Conservancy, we hired him as a full-time employee in our Greening Department.  You often can see him driving in Newark in our “Greening” truck – which is usually filled with a combination of soil, raised beds, and plants – headed toward the next community garden he is building or maintaining.        
Released from prison less than two years ago, Asim is now fully supporting himself and his son.  He no longer hangs out with the “negative people” that influenced his prior ways.  Now, he looks for interesting activities to do with his son.  This summer, he took his first vacation – taking his son to a family reunion in Atlanta, Georgia.  And he is looking to the future, working nights and weekends as a certified personal trainer to supplement his income and build a business.   
With your support, we can continue the Clean and Green program and provide jobs for at-risk young adults like Asim.  And you can be assured that your donation is being used for the programs you believe in.  For the second consecutive year, Greater Newark Conservancy has earned a coveted, 4-star rating for sound fiscal management from Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator.  This milestone is reached by only 18% of nonprofits in the entire country! 
Additionally, Greater Newark Conservancy is proud to be one of only 22 non-profits chosen by the Dodge Foundation, to be featured in its Annual New Jersey Give Back Guide. We are happy to announce that once we receive 50 donations through the online Generosity Generator, the  Dodge Foundation will give a matching donation of $1000!  Please be one of the 50 who helps us reach this goal.
It’s easy to donate to the Conservancy using the online Generosity Generator. Click here to make your year end holiday gift to the Conservancy.    Thank you.



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