Laurie Soderman Speaks at Holiday Gala 2015

My name is Laurie Soderman and I became a trainee earlier this year in May. When I was asked to speak tonight, describing my experience, a quote from a song by the band Genesis came to mind. They sang:

The sands of time were eroded by the river of constant change.

This is a glimpse of my story of Transformation, currently raw and in the making. Not started by easy-going willingness, but rather by the pungent taste of experience.  Like the Phoenix, who crashes and burns, then rises up out of the ashes reborn anew—the problem is, we aren’t mythical creatures.

We are people, who either forgot or never learned—we are children of the Creator, valuable, beautiful and bountiful of creative expression.

Homelessness stripped me of my “place” in society, along with my self-worth, self-love and respectability.  All attempts to pull, push, yank, drag or climb out of this dark abyss, this void, were met with repeated failure, jail, depression—a downward spiral without light or hope. My motivation—lost.  Following a butterfly would be a straighter path. Then….

While locked up in jail, a volunteer encouraged me to fill out and complete a job application from a place called the Homeless Garden Project, a transitional employment program.

So, I wrote them a letter requesting an application…

Mail Call—“SODERMAN,” the officer called. A job application arrived with a note simply saying, “Hope to hear from you,” had been mailed—to the jail!  Who does that?

Shortly after my release in early spring, I found myself volunteering at the Garden. A 3.5 acre sanctuary where clean, pressed, dress attire was not required. I sat on the ground, was introduced to Angela, a current trainee then.  We planted beets. I felt safe, comfortable and calm. Carefully removing delicate new life from trays and transferring them to their new home, tucking them in, encouraging them to grow…and not let the bed bugs bite!

My thought was to test the water and what really happened was that I was drawn in by nature’s charm.

Soon after, I found myself seated at my job interview, and expecting the same pablum, rote memorized, trite sayings. I was pleasantly surprised by something entirely different, new and inspiring!

Surrounded, accepted and embraced, this caterpillar began spinning a cocoon, to save my life.

With my hands in the Earth, I began to connect with something much bigger than I ever could have anticipated. The work itself began an internal healing process. Lindsay encouraged me to choose a place or a “plant friend” to visit daily.

The hyssop called to me, a lovely plant with purple and pink plumage—used for making tea; conveniently planted next to the bed of Holy Basil.  This bed of plants became my constant companion as I would wear a sprig of the plant in the rubber band also holding the braid in my hair.  The fragrance visited my gently throughout the day. Always grounding me and communicating with me, creating a living relationship, preparing a space within for pure and simple life and love; a foundation from which to build.

Our workweek begins with “circle,” a confidential check-in space and often answering the question posed for the week that inspires thought and looking inward. Stretching as a group follows, then off to our different posts consisting of flower harvesting and creating bouquets, or irrigation, greenhouse or vegetable production.

Laurie speaking at our Holiday Gala, 2015

One day a week we are provided with a class, with topics ranging from how to enroll at Cabrillo College, to the study of bees or writing skills. Each trainee is also matched with a social work intern who works closely with their trainees. My social worker helps me to identify my goals and strengths; they locate documents to assist with housing and a range of other support services. We create or update our resumes. The Homeless Garden Project creates an environment where each trainee is always being presented with the opportunity of a new task, thus increasing knowledge and building a variety of skills.

With a job that is rewarding and being infused by the generosity of the garden, I noticed I was changing—growing, eating healthier, becoming more mindful and developing a positive attitude.

Since May of this year, I’ve been housed and I’m in the final step of obtaining my driver’s license. I have plans to attend college next year and embark on a new journey into my new job—be it in a garden or an office.

If I could sum it up into one key point: this Project, this Garden, this Community gives me an opportunity; an opportunity to make a difference! What an extraordinary way to receive, contribute and give back!

–Laurie Soderman, 12.4.2015


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Getting Back to Life

Kat Speaks at Sustain Farm Dinner in the late afternoon light



Good Evening everyone.  Thank you all for coming tonight.  My name is Katrina Dubinsky.  Everyone calls me Kat.  I am a very fortunate volunteer at Homeless Garden Project and I’m grateful Darrie asked me to speak tonight.  I am especially pleased to speak on something that involves promise, hope, solutions and humanity.

I have much to tell about my experience at Homeless Garden Project.  Throughout my adult life, I thought about volunteer work but never took action.    The volunteering I am doing now is not just about giving back, it’s about getting back…to life.  I’m relearning how to be responsible, take direction, and set goals.  I now see value in all my relationships and every day is a gift.  While I’m a volunteer, I feel like a trainee.  Chris, Darrie, Lindsay, Mike, Jes, thank you for building me up to feel like an integral part of this project. To all of my trainee co-workers, I say thank you for accepting me as of part of your team and giving me of sense of belonging.   When I first arrived to volunteer and for many months after, everyone here thought I was a trainee, until they asked about my story… and I told them.

You see, almost eight years ago, I made choices that changed lives, including the lives of my family and my own life, in a very bad way.  When called to answer for those choices, I found myself standing on the threshold of prison sentence.  No one but my creator and I knew how dark this time became and where my thoughts could have led me.  My story wasn’t supposed to end that way.   Social justice and AB109 said I would serve my prison sentence at the Santa Cruz County Jail.

By participating in a recovery and behavior modification program offered thru the jail known as Gemma, I was chosen for a pilot project, which included volunteer work at Homeless Garden.   For change to happen someone had to take the initial leap of faith, and someone did just that.  I’m sure there were many people involved in the start up of this program that I never knew about. I did know two at the jail were instrumental in moving the idea of helping those with long term sentences to reintegrate back into society.  Those two were Lieutenant Plageman and Supervising Correctional Officer Diana Holland.

Together with Darrie and Stacy at Gemma they set up this program and I would be their first participant.  I was paving the way for others to follow.  This is how I came to volunteer at the Homeless Garden Project.

Event volunteers listen to Kat

The Homeless Garden Project’s staff, trainees and other volunteers,  probably didn’t know while we were working together, they were helping me regain many key life skills I had lost sight of so long ago…confidence, self-esteem, hope, integrity, purpose and finding forgiveness for myself. The garden has magic of its own, but it’s really about the people. That’s where the inspiration, solidarity and beauty come from.


Team work happens here. If we have a job that needs to be done, Chris, Mike or Lindsay give the direction and before you know it, a whole bed is planted out.  Together we get the job done.

The first place I worked at the garden was the green house with Andrew.  Look around you, all of this beauty came from tiny little seeds.    Helping with the harvest of food and flowers for the Community Supported Agriculture shares, I saw the results of our work. We are feeding people in many different ways.  I learned about irrigation, clearing and bedding up for planting.  I can recognize and name many of the flowers out here.  Love-in-a-mist and Dahlias are two of my favorites.

All trainees here are connected to social workers.  I too was linked with a social worker.  They show us how to get our needs met, sign up for school, find housing, and receive medical care and many other services.  They help us to help ourselves.  My “check-in” every week with my social workers became an opportunity for me to be vulnerable and let others support me–something I haven’t been able to do in the past.  These social workers became our friends and helped us achieve our goals, by teaching us to advocate for ourselves.  Thank you to all the social workers for the ample amounts of compassion you gave.

Dinner Guests

Our circle meeting, held weekly, is a place to share about our lives, the good, bad and the extraordinary; without judgment.  Society at times stereotypes others and in doing so, we are judging and diminishing their value. Think for a minute: what springs to mind when you hear the words:  homeless, inmate, law, police and felon?


During circle meetings, I see clarity and confidence rise and draw our group closer together because we value one another.  As I have told everyone in our circle, I receive so much more than I give here.

The Homeless Garden Project offers classes every week on a variety of topics, farming, conflict resolution and job skills, just to name a few.  We went to Shoreline, Goodwill’s Career Center, to prepare our resumes and check out jobs posted on line.  I am going to need a job when my freedom is restored and I’m ready for my first interview with my resume, and my confidence.

I’ve been thinking about what job I will seek.  We are all born with native gifts.  Those gifts, when we give them freely, can serve others as well as ourselves.  I was inspired when Angie asked for me to train in candle dipping with Raven.  Raven, you are a fun and energetic teacher.  The beeswax candles you so painstakingly dip are beautiful.  Angie provided me yet another opportunity–to participate in production of products like Lavender Shortbread, Herb Biscuits and Chocolate Rosemary Brownies which, by the way, Homeless Garden Project sells in their store and at the farm stand.

Baking is my passion.   Enjoying fresh baked sweets makes people happy.  I take pleasure in happiness.    On many occasions, I’ve baked for my housemates at Blaine Street Women’s Facility.  They always tell me, “Miss Kat, everything you make is soooo good you should sell your treats. People will love them!”

Angie, what is her title? Oh yes, Store Manager BUT WAIT! She’s so much MORE.  I have found such inspiration through Angie.  She’s showing me how to put together a plan for a social enterprise, that won’t just be about the product.  With Angie’s guidance in writing a business plan and costing out my recipes, I am doing the footwork necessary to start baking and selling products at Farmers’ Markets.  My mission statement has been written.  Putting my life’s experiences to work for the good of others I have found a higher purpose. Helping people to help themselves by giving them a job–who knows where it will lead us!  Jails to jobs, what a beautiful concept.

I have witnessed the success of many men and women who’ve graduated the year-long program at Homeless Garden Project.  Many graduated, with jobs and housing.

I have abundant amounts of gratitude for being able to do my time at the Blaine Street

Sheriff Jim Hart introduced Kat

Women’s Facility which afforded me the opportunity to work at the Homeless Garden Project. Those dark thoughts I had diminished with each passing day.  I have felt supported by many at the jail and at Homeless Garden Project.  In my personal opinion, this County was blessed the day Jim Hart became Sheriff Jim Hart.  He and all who work under him are not as portrayed in movies.  They are good people who care and constantly seek ways help those of us who have a hard time getting on our feet.  I know this thru firsthand experience and the fact that Sheriff Hart is here tonight.  Thank you, Sheriff Hart for your support of Blaine Street, the volunteer program and the countless other ways you give to this community.   The common ground has already been discovered.  I hope the Sheriff’s Department and Homeless Garden Project will be able to cultivate a relationship that could serve to further promote healthy productive lives and put what grows out here to the ultimate use, serving the needs of our community.


Steven, the love of my life always says, “Together we will get through anything.”  Steven, you have been unwavering in supporting me.  Keep looking to the future, soon you’ll see us BOTH there with our four beautiful grandchildren.   I love you.  Gratefulness and gratitude are abundant in my heart.  I have gained wisdom beyond my years and I will use that wisdom and all I have gained at Homeless Garden Project, to do good works in the world.

Our guests respond to Kat's talk

To everyone here, it’s important that you know how vital your support is to Homeless Garden Project and how much everyone here values that support, past present and future. The very fact you are here tonight speaks volumes for this community.


I’ll leave you with this African Proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

–Kat Dubinsky

Thanks to David Dennis Photos







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Ignite a spark inside me

Chris received a standing ovation when he gave this talk at our Farm Dinner

Hello everyone, I’d like to thank everybody for coming out to visit our farm. “Our farm.” It’s funny when I say “our farm.” I think of all the numerous people that have come here whether it to be a volunteer, donate, find some peace and quiet, or like many of us in the trainee program, to help put our lives back together and give it purpose. All of us have left our mark here, but more apparent is the mark that this incredible place leaves on you, as well as a sense of self worth, dignity and confidence that have helped me to truly define who and what I am, and what I want to be.

Chris Roberts Crystal Birns Photography

How did I come to this point? Well let me tell you a little bit about what defines me. I grew up in a split household. One, a military family with strict discipline and harsh consequences as the eldest to my 3 half brothers and the other, considered the black sheep. I felt alone, out of place and incapable of doing anything right, no matter where I was. At age 11, I thought I had found the answer to those feelings in drugs. My self-proclaimed answer has taken me everywhere from rehab and hospitals to near death to jails and wilderness camps; finally at 30 years old in front of judges, with three years of prison hanging over my head asking me, “What are you doing with your life?”  I have tried recovery numerous times but without any meaningful purpose to guide my actions, I always seemed to fall short of success.


One of my biggest defining points of my life was on October 29, 2004. Four months before I turned 21, I became a father. My son Casey became the light of my life. My son and I share a very special bond that can only be defined as unconditional love and understanding. We have gone through CPS together, the special women in our lives leaving us, homelessness, all the while trying to manage his symptoms. In 2009, he was diagnosed with autism and severe ADHD and in 2010 received his third classification of being a runner.

These things and more have strengthened our bond to one another. We truly are each other’s shadow. Being the father to such a special boy means I have been gifted with patience, understanding, compassion and unconditional love. Now as parents, we’re expected to know everything, have all the answers and be the perfect role models to our children. But in reality, it’s not the case. We make mistakes and learn along the way, just as they do. After everything I’ve gone through and we’ve gone through, my goal, my biggest hope is that I will have raised my son to be a better person then I was and to not follow in all of dads’ footsteps.

All these events, leaning experiences and people are important defining moments in my life but they do not solely define who and what I am. Up until the beginning of the year, I couldn’t see that. I let people and my past define my future. In mid January of this year, it was suggested by several close friends to check out this place, this Homeless Garden Project, and see what it was all about.

I had no idea what to expect. I was a couple months’ clean with no real sight to aim for. I knew how to care for my son and run a functional home, but didn’t know how to make myself happy. In a very short time I began to feel good about what I was accomplishing at the farm and a spark began to ignite inside of me. What had started as my own little personal therapy session grew and blossomed into a bright new-found passion, and I began to feel my purpose. February 1, 2015 marked a fresh start as my first official day as a trainee. Now it’s August and I have been an official trainee for 6 ½ months. I have learned everything from irrigation to how to prep a bed, plant it, maintain it, harvest it, and break it down to start over. Let’s not forget keeping your soil healthy by crop rotation and cover cropping. At the end of this month I will have successfully completed my two- month post in the green house and am going to take it to the next level, and learn the behind-the-scenes work that comes with managing a farm.



All these skills are just the tip of the mark left on me by this remarkable place. This is my home, my safe place, my tranquil serenity. And because of the positive effect this place has, I was discharged from probation early and my felony has been erased from my record.

This oasis of hope has given me purpose and a goal. I now know what I want to do with my life. In the spring of 2016, I will be enrolling at Cabrillo College in agriculture and horticulture to become a farmer. I have had several job offers when I finish the program, but my ultimate goal is to have my own farm and teach children and adults with similar characteristics to my son so that I can pass on the same feelings of accomplishment, confidence, purpose, and belonging that this place has passed on to me.

Without this place, without the bosses we have–Darrie, Chris, Lindsay, and Mike, (who like me started as a trainee and became much more)–without their understanding, compassion and guidance and the support of the many people who support our farm,  I and many others like me would be lost, destroyed, incarcerated, or worse. I hope this place lasts for many, many more years to help show the hundreds or even thousands of homeless people that are sick, tired, hurting or just plain stuck in a pit of unending despair that there is help, hope and a real light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you all for listening, have a great night.

Chris Roberts, Homeless Garden Project trainee, Talk at August 22, 2015 Sustain Farm Dinner in honor of HGP 25 Year Anniversary

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2014 Annual Report: Donors

A Hearty Thank You to All Our Generous Donors. You Make Our Garden Grow!

Sustainer of the Garden ($25,000 and over)

Quentin Hancock      Newman’s Own Foundation

Nurturer of the Garden ($10,000-$24,999)

Patrice Boyle      Helen and Will Webster Foundation

Monterey Peninsula Foundation, host of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

George L. Shields Foundation, Inc.     New Leaf Community Markets

The Joshua Alper-Marines Foundation      The Control Group

Grower of the Garden ($5,000-$9,999)

Anonymous      Iden Goodman     Patrick Teverbaugh       Wendy E. Jordan Fund

Cultivator of the Garden ($1,000-$4,999)

eBay Foundation       Joanna Miller      Grace Voss      Lindsay Parker & Bob Pelz

Dwayne & Linda Downing     UNFI Foundation

The Michael and Alice ChetkovichFoundation    Patrick & Martha Dexter

Sally Shepherd      Rosemary and Simon Hayward      Joan Osborne     Plantronics, Inc.

Mazal      Joe Mingione     Michelle Gates           Anonymous

Pamela E. Davis      Allison & Douglas Garcia      Margaret McCue

Gail Michaelis-Ow & George Ow, Jr.      Michele Gomez     Peter & Patricia Biocini

Janice Cockren      Alexander & Jean Grillo     Craig & Fey Cocchi      Suzanne MacLean

Scott Roseman & Jasmine Berke     Cathy Calfo      Ralph Alpert     Vera & Elliot Aronson

Edward Bacher     Robin & James Boyle     Linda Charman     Hiscox Foundation USA

Intuit Foundation      Wes Joran     Joseph & Louise O’Toole Foundation     Paul Lee

Tom Lehrer     Sheila Moser     Omega Nu, Sigma Alpha Chapter      Alice Waters

Aura Oslapas & Bob Arko     Rodriguez Properties     Eta Somekh Family Foundation

Leigh Anne Starling     Catherine Steele     Union Bank Foundation      Wells Fargo

Sower of the Garden ($500-$999)

Matt & Peg Guerrieri     Betty & Peter Michelozzi     Carolyn & Darryl Rudolph

Caitlin Sadowski & Ian Pye     John Allured     Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California

North Coast Vision     Universal Audio     Mark Fernquest     The Seaver Institute

Lubab Sheet     Joan Springhetti     Robert & Helen Shepherd     Amy Kellington Evans

Rowland & Pat Rebele     Grace Sanchez & Tomas Bush     James Wilczak     Teresa Ronsse

Therese Adams     Karen Lambert     Kevin McClendon     Ann Ramer

Benevity Community Impact Fund      Dan Blunk     Enda Brennan

Gerald & Bonnie Christensen     The Dunn Boys Charitable Fund      Freedom Lions Club

Peter Gelblum     Robert Goff & Eleanor Littman     Nancie Graham     Pat Henderson

Brian & Patricia A. Herman Fund     Barbara & Stephen Jackel     Raven Jones

Peter & Jeanette Katzlberger     Bonnie Keet     Lam Research

Val Leoffler & Doug Hellinger      Anonymous     Karen and Jonathan McCormick

Mesiti-Miller Engineering, Inc     Rotary Club of Santa Cruz      Santa Cruz Yoga

Max Turri & Kim Eabry     William L. & Carol Wass     Joanne Yablonsky

William L. Price Charitable Foundation

Supporter of the Garden ($100-$499)

IBM Employee Services Center     Becky & Jim Lang     Carol & Tom Smith

Carolyn Dille & Dick Walvis     Anonymous     Joyce Nordquist     Irene Osterbrock

Bonnie & Fred Rosen     James Brown     Mark Primack & Janet Pollock     Ginny Aragon

Tina M. Mazzei     Diane Simpson     Susan & Richard Beach     Susana Traber

The Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, LLC     Margaret Collins     The Garden Company

Anonymous     Jon Kersey & Alice Benet     Eric Laumann     Meryl Lewin      Anonymous

Anonymous     Charlene & Leo Ott     Rossi’s Body Shop & Towing Service

United Natural Foods, Inc.     Barbara Meislin     Rick Wright & Tamara Santos

Lynne & Dan Alper     Anonymous      Harold Brockman     Meredith & Jerry Brown

Anne Marie & Carl Christensen     Tracy Cole & Jon Jiles     Joan Delfino

John Faulkner     Sheila & Dean Gottehrer     John Hester     Ursula Lamberson

Lesley Lathrop     Milton Meyer Foundation     Alexis Morgan     Nancy Musselman

Dorothy Ruby     Kathy Runyon     Jagan Sankaranaraynan & Nithya Sankaran

Nikki Silva & Charles Prentiss     Richard Verrow & Ann Russell     Linda & Ron Weaver

Holly Bailey      Stephanie Golino     Naomi & Asher Brauner     Mary Edmund

Patricia Workman      Anonymous      John April      Charles R. & Beverly S. Barnes

Howard & Lisa Charnock     Mary Dexter     Paul Fleischman     John Gillette

Laura & Marc Grossman      Jim Howes     Hans Leuthold     Srina Lynne     Robert McKim

John Miller     Pamela & Al Patrick     Marcia & Robert Rider     Marilyn Robertson

Ann Rogers     Shirley Schneider & William Garber     Shen’s Gallery & Imports, Inc

David & Mary South     Robert Stanley     Eva Strnad & Doug Sherman

Walters & Kondrasheff      Denise & Dave Ward     Discretion Brewing     Sebastian Little

Richelle Noroyan     Eliane Roe     Janet Volpe     David & Mary Jane Cope

Mary Ellen Barr     Nicholas & Lenora Barthel     Diane & Bruce Bridgeman

Nancy & Glen Brown     Burrell School Vineyards & Winery    Jerry & Sylvia Deck

Emily & Lee Duffus     Joan & Bill Dunn     Daryl Gerwin     Katy & Eliot Guernsey

Laura & Keith Howard     Bob & Betty Imlay     Jessica Lacy     Donald Lessard

Ruth Martin     Matthew Miller & Janet Kaseda     Pajaro Valley Irrigation

Janet Parker & Bruce Berwald     Michael & Sarah Ray     Randall Rea & Kathleen Loughlin

Roger & Dory Rindge     Jacob Sidman & Kris Sidman-Gale

Barbara Sprenger & Ken Meshke     Nancy Sugars     SunOpta/Tradin Organics

Terre & Charles Thomas     Norma Vite     Jen Walsh     Claudia & Alec Webster

Larry & Lynn Wolfe     Jonathan & Susan Wittwer     Koppes Plants

Joan & David Hentges     Amber Campion     Connie Croker     Roxana Goin

Hanna Hannah     Suzanne Heinze     Mission Hill Creamery     Mt. Cross Ministries

Linda Rosewood     Shari Smith     Mary Wieland & Ronnie Lipschutz

Katherine & Barry Welch     Menlo School     Rusten Hogness     Marty Ackerman

Mark Alexander     Yong Bai     John & Susan Barisone     Carolina Bayne     Donald Biek

Michael Bolte     Elisa Breton     Jeff Brittan     Lorie Bross     Ted Burke     Cafe Cruz

Meg Campbell     Sharon Caredio     Andy Carman     Will Cassilly Jr.

Gena & John Connelly     Kathryn Crowe     Christine & Chris de Vries

Fred & Nan Dejarlais     Lucille Des Jardins     Lawrence & Maryellen Dick     Peggy Dilfer

Earl’s Organic Produce     Christine Louise Evans & Nicholas Ross     Bonnie Faraola

Jan & Jerry Finney     Barbara & Harvey Friedland     John Gamman

Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria     Lynne & William Giles

Richard Griffith & Margaret Perham     Frances Guerrero & Eugene Moriarty

Kimberly Hallinan     Nadia Jeanne Hamey     Meg & Don Harlor

Rosalind & Harold Hastings     Nancy Hiestand     Sam Huynh & Gabrielle Korte

Judith Marie & Kent Imai     Mary Ingraham     Christine & John Irving

Journeyworks Publishing     Deutron Kebebew & Evin Arici-Kebebew     Susan Kerr

Robert & Michele Kibrick     Elaine Kihara & David Sweet     Pamela & Charles Landram

Grace Laurencin     Vanessa Lee     David Levan     Glenn Lyons & Nancy Gerdt

Martha Macambridge      Victoria & Brad Mattson     Joanne Matuzas     Cory McCabe

Timothy McCormick & Noel De Gelleke     Melissa McDill     Carole McPherson

Nicholas Meier & Elizabeth Good     Kathryn Metz     Lisa Miller-Anderson

Janet Moyer      Josette & Michael Nauenberg     Gary & Tara Neier     Matthew Newton

Phyllis Norris     Rozell Overmire     Janice Palm     Dianne & Stephen Pereira

George & Katina Powell, Jr.     Karleen Quick     Jean & Edward Ranck    Mathilde Rand

Loren Reynolds     Carolyn Roberts     Lisa Rose     Ruth & Nick Royal     John Russell

Scott & Marilyn Sandow     D. Lynn & William Scally     Peter & Celia Scott

Lori Siegmund     Bertine & Ken Slosberg     Maggie Smith    Cathy Stefanki    Amy Stewart

Ron Swenson     Woutje Swets     Michael Tierra      Ann Timm     Kathy Train

Christine Tucker     Michael & Susan Warren     Kerstin Wasson & Bruce Lyon

Lloyd & Bonnie Williams     Richard & Nicci Winner     Martha Zuniga

Friend of the Garden (up to$99)

Donna Gervich     Christine Hirsch     Anne Cawley     Susan Algert

Judy Allen & Susan Seaburg     Froukje Brouwer     Cecily Cahill     Margaret Collins

Jan & Edwin Dexter     Jonee Donelly     Margaret Gannon     Cecilia Lee     John Lippman

Kelly Mazzei     Michael Meirer     Nada Miljkovic     Abbie & Tim Miller     Jodee Noll

Brian O’Toole     Ellen Primack & Eric Schmidt     Mary & George Reynolds    Kim Thomas

Gail Williamson     Jane Blackman      Minerva Mendoza

Hilda Hodges & Don Hodges, M.D.     Alisa Klaus     Monica Larenas     Steve Lustgarden

Evelyne Marmalejo     Dee Tannenbaum     Karl von Ahnen     Meris Walton     Dave Rus

Jim & Elise Atkins     Bookshop Santa Cruz     Main Street Garden & Cafe

Joan & Joe Akers     Abbey Asher     Ethan Baldinger     Camille Ball     Katherine Beiers

Valerie Bengal     Joya & Daniel Birns     Anonymous     Susan & Robert Bosso

Jack Bowers     Jesse D. Bregman & Ziggy Rendler Bregman     Laurie Broderick-Burr

Megan & George Bunch     Brian & Kathleen Cayton     Begona Cirera-Perez

Rebecca Cole & Howard Malcolm     Craig’s Auto Upholstery     James & Joyce Crowley

Patricia Damron & Ben Harmon     Sharon Dirnberger     Mary & Jim Doherty

J. David & Jo Anne Duncan     Beth Dyer     Steve Eabry & Jane Wheeler

Andrew & Betsy Finfrock     Hasanna Fletcher Ryan & Dane Ryan    Camille Flores

Marianna & James Franks     Judy Fried & Bob Scowcroft     Carol A. Fuller

Betty Gangware     Good Humans     Joan & George Hall     Lulane Harrison

Edward Hearn & Linda Arnold     Carole Hessler     Vera Hope

Martha Jordan & Eli Silver    Terrill & Robin Keeler     Sharon & Jim King     Phil Kramer

Susan Krivin & David Ohanesian     L. Stevan Leonard     Keith & Florence Lesar

Sterling Lewis      Nita Lundin     Kay & Siegfrid Magenheim     Annette March

Eloise Martindale     Nadine & Eugene Mastin      Anonymous     Rich & Dida Merrill

Donna Miguelgorry     Claudia Miller      Lois Muhly     Jesse & Christine Nickell

Notre Dame San Jose     Gary & Marilyn Patton    Gary & Sheryl Peters    Craig Reinarman

Alfred J. & Maureen Richard     Kathleen Riley     Donald & Diana Rothman

Yaron Rozenbaum & Andrea Amoedo     Rhonda Schlosser     Shopper’s Corner

Nirvikar Singh     Therese Smith     Claire Sommargren     Carol Souza     Sara Steffen

Lynn Sullivan & Dan Cheatham     Peter Szydlowski      Ruth Updegraff & Mark Hamersly

Martha Vickers      John & Sandra Warren     Jane Weed & Ron Pomerantz

Nanlouise Wolfe    Marie Young    Maria Zamudio & Patricia Shea    Charles & Cindy Haug

La Selva Beach Surf Shop     Mardi Brick     Coleen Cantwell & W. Scott Berry

Linda Civitello     Lyn Dremalas     Sally Gensberg     Adam Gottlieb     Miriam Greenberg

Lisa Kolbeck     Nancy & John Lingemann     Robert Stockwell & Stacy Kamehiro

Jan & Margaret Ysselstein     Evie & Richard Alloy   Karen Lynch

Fred & Marianne Mejia     Gary Nickerson & Judith Burseth     Bill & Pam Richter

Sandra Silver     Ann Cogliati     Jo Covone     Leann Meyer

Monica Pielage & Blake Cooper     Susan Reichstein     Dick & Marion Vittitow

Terry Barse     Esther Barbour & Anthony Crane     Lynn Bentley     Kaya Brown

Ruth Campbell     Sheila Cayton     Joanne Chamberlin     Diane Chaney

Cynthia Cline & George Bloomstrand      Carolyn & Curt Coleman     Freda Crum

Christine DeLapp     David & Nancy Demorest     Cherilee Eide     First Friends Church

Derek & Liz Fohs     Elizabeth & Joseph Foster     Robert Gilbert     Ellis Goldfrit

Victoria Gordon     Diane Grunes     Isabella Hedtke     Jamie Jeffries     Gloria Judson

Bruce & Pina Kamolnick     Lisa Kaufman & Jonathan Crow     Donald & Barbara Keeler

Wiktor Kluzniak     Edward Larson     Pamela Laughin     Barbara Litsky

Edward Lorraine     Justina Louie     Baruch Lowenberg     Norman Nelson

Nancy McCalister & William McCalister, Sr.     Megan Oberdorfer

Jeanne Olsen-Lawrence     Vivienne Orgel     Julia Patton

Kathleen Peppard & R. F. Mueller     Matthew & Cathleen Quinn     Kathleen Roberts

Andrea Rosenfeld     Diann Russell     Alan Savat & Gene Smith     Donna Smith

Devin Sodt      Wendy Strimling     Mary & James Sundeen     Betty Tambellini

Susan Tarleton      Ingrid Templeton     Barbara Allen-Young     Jill Ammon-Wexler

Anonymous     Celila Blackney     Anthony Carney      Ken Dickerson     Kaylee Green

Nita Hertel      Robin Imlay & Jeffrey Hing     Nancy & Richard Jevons     Winifred Johnsen

Steven & Mary Lanctot     Martine Mahoudeau     Shane & Christie O’Brien     Tim England

Jan & Olafur Olafsson     Diana Vaniotis     Sheila Malone     Juliet Goldstein

Jeff Hoover     Pranav Joshi    Rosa Wilson       Debbie Hale     Jamie Kelley

In-Kind Donors

Beckmann’s Old World Bakery      Becky & Jim Lang       Bob & Dean Prikazsky

Bob Carlton Graphics     Bonny Doon Vineyard     Carin Chapin      Charles Verutti

Community Printers       Cole Canyon Nursery     Complete Mailing Service      Corona

Clipper, Inc.       Costco      Daniel Spero     Farm Fuel Inc.     Fred C. Gloeckner Co.

Jamie Jeffries     Knox Roofing     Koppes Plants     KUSP      Lee Jaffee      Linda Wolbers

Lorin & Jill Troderman      Marc Susskind & Jill Schettler-Susskind     Martha Clingerman

Martinelli’s & Co.      Mayim      Nada Milijkovic     Meg Campbell     Mike Arenson

My Terra     Newman’s Own Organics      MS Builders      Palace Art & Office Supply

Pat Sundermeyer     Safeway      Shopper’s Corner       SunOpta/Tradin Organics

Therese Adams      Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards     True Olive Connection

Vision Recycling     Walters & Kondrasheff

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Each Story Increases Our Understanding

“I regret the times when I neglected those around me, specifically those in need of a small act of kindness or reassurance.” In all of the stories I’ve heard while volunteering for the Homeless Garden Project, this line was one of the most poignant.

I’ve come to learn that taking the time to help others starts with understanding the problems they face, and volunteering at the Project provided a setting for me to develop relationships within the community and learn how to help.

For me, the most impactful part of this experience has been hearing the stories of those experiencing homeless in Santa Cruz and, more specifically, those in the Homeless Garden Project’s job training program. I will never be able to fully understand the relentless stress and anxiety that they face every day, but I believe listening is an important first step.

Many of the stories I’ve heard centered on a constant feeling of neglect and misunderstanding, as society automatically jumps to negative stereotypes about homelessness. Several spoke of their sense of self being torn away from them by predetermined perceptions.

In their everyday lives, these individuals feel invisible, and it is common for passersby to shift their gaze away, afraid or ashamed of the stories they might hear.

I’ve heard that it is easy to fall into the cycle of self-pity. Many confessed that it seemed as if all the options and opportunities they once had collapsed. Thankfully, the Project opens up new opportunities and offers a choice in shaping the future. It benefits and positively impacts both its volunteers and trainees.

When talking about the Project, and especially the farm, many of those in the training program describe a sense of peace provided by this calm and accepting environment. For some, this place has fostered their artistic ability. They are given the opportunity to discover themselves, while simultaneously developing valuable agricultural skills that can be applied in a variety of horticultural and agricultural fields.

I am amazed by how much I learn from the staff, trainees, and other volunteers. There is always something new to work on and someone new to meet.

While volunteering downtown at the gift shop, I’ve also heard stories from the wider community of Santa Cruz. Former trainees and volunteers have stopped to tell me about their positive experiences with the Project and how it helped better their life. Others tell me they are inspired by the talent of local artists and past trainees represented by the store’s many items for sale.

Spending quality time with the Homeless Garden Project has provided me with valuable experience that I will continue to use. Every person I’ve met and every story I’ve heard has developed and broadened my view of our community. This, in turn, has aided in my understanding and perception of homelessness.

The Project also plays a critical role in the greater Santa Cruz community. Those who pass through the farm, store, and workshop are grateful for the support they receive.

Whether you are interested in transitioning out of an unstable housing situation, interning for a quarter, stopping by to buy candles, or want to pick up a shovel at the farm, everyone has the same opportunity to expand their story and experience the positive influences of the Homeless Garden Project.

– Trisha Nash Patel, Homeless Garden Project Intern

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Our Lives Run Parallel

I write this with deepest appreciation to those at the Homeless Garden Project who touched my life with their authenticity and presence: Darrie, Angie, Jes, Naomi, Lindsay, Mike, Chris, Angela, Raven, and the many trainees, community members, and others I worked alongside in the office, workshop, retail store, and farm.

I relocated to Santa Cruz in the summer of 2014 and chose to participate in the Project’s volunteer Century Certificate Program in the fall and winter. Participating in this program–comprised of 100 hours of volunteer service and several classes with the training program–offered me the stability I needed to focus my attention and energy on a cause that I knew nothing about, yet had a mental, emotional, and spiritual connection with. I was going through a difficult life transition: the loss of the lifestyle I had cultivated for the past 14 years, the termination of employment, marriage, and home. Although I have financial resources, skills, family, friends, and a new home, the feeling of being uprooted was very ungrounding and the Century Certificate Program was the fertile soil I needed to plant the seeds for my own healing and new beginnings in this community.

Courage is required during these times of unknown, when new life is stirring underground and we must patiently wait for it to break through the surface, like new sprouts seeking light in order to grow. Throughout this transition, I have come to see that our lives run parallel with the life cycle of nature, seasons, and plants, and it has helped me to use this analogy to embrace the changes in my life.

In any transition, having the empathetic help of others, a structure for learning new skills, faith in overcoming obstacles, and a safe haven or place to go really makes a difference for those feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually without a “home”.  This was certainly the case for me. The Homeless Garden Project offered me support, and the kindness of the individuals involved gave me hope.

The combination of sharing my passion for gardening and therapeutic horticulture, with putting my administrative skills to work in the office meant so much for me. In those months of volunteering, I was gaining the tools to come home inside myself and trust that I could make a home in the external world as well.

We share a common humanity in our need for food, shelter, clothing, and contribution—to be seen and understood with compassion in order to learn the necessary tools to experience and express the full power of who we are. The seeds I planted of perseverance, hope, faith, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-respect during the Century Certificate Program have broken through the surface and the warmth of the spring sunlight along with the water of my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being is providing a solid foundation for the physical blossoming of a new garden.

Although I have completed the program, I am still in transition, in the process of composting the old, redesigning my life with meaning and purpose, exploring new professional options, participating in trainings, embracing new thoughts and emotions, and knowing that all experiences have value. With patience, the fruits of these labors will be harvested in their own time. My deepest gratitude to the Homeless Garden Project for helping me come home to that place within and knowing anything is possible.

-Laura Belson, Century Certificate Volunteer

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2014 Annual Report: Our Social Enterprises

Value in our Enterprises

Value starts at our farm as trainees nurture the soil, grow vegetables and share the bounty with our community. But trainees gain valuable work skills and continue to add value from our farm to our workshop and retail store, where products are handmade and used to raise money for our projects.

Farm Enterprises

In 2014 we harvested 35,000 lbs. of produce.

We planted 37 types of vegetables, which included 125 different varieties; and 70 varieties of flowers.

Our Farm Stand and Wholesale revenue more than doubled over the prior year to nearly $22,000.





CSA, Wholesale, Events       12,000 lb                      U-pick estimate                    12,000 lb                  Farm stand                              9,000 lb              Kitchen                                     2,000 lb

Total                                    35,000 lb

Our Value-added Enterprise

Products and photos tell our story in our Downtown Store window

Since our beginning, as a means to expand the skills our trainees learn and practice, bring in revenue to support our programs, and keep our programs running during the rainy season, we’ve “added value” to the “raw agricultural products” we harvest from our farm.


“Besides offering a higher return, value-added products can open new markets, create recognition for a farm, expand the market season, and make a positive contribution to the community. However, adding value … is a long-term approach, not a ‘quick fix.’ It requires the willingness and ability to take on risk, as well as adequate capital, management skills, and personal skills—such as the ability to interact with the public—to succeed.” –from “Adding Value to Farm Products: An Overview–ATTRA — National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology(NCAT)

Our biggest news is that we opened a year-round Downtown Retail Store!

We're building year-round markets with our Downtown Store

This chart depicts the number of transactions during each quarter

(Q1: Jan-Mar, Q2: Apr-Jun, Q3: July-Sept, Q4: Oct-Dec)

Our Accomplishments

  • Our Downtown Store allows us to expand our outreach and education

    Author Wallace J Nichols holds up a blue marble at his "Blue Mind" book reading


  • In 2014, we held over 15 special events (First Fridays, book signings, cooking demo’s, etc.)  A few of our most successful were -
    • June First Friday, “Land & Sea theme”  - We partnered with Save our Shores, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, O’Neill Sea Odyssey, Santa Cruz Waves & CCOF to show appreciation of our watershed and the ocean ecosystem.
    • August First Friday, “The Art of Food” – We invited several local food artisans to speak and provide samples of their artisanal foods. Participants included Friend in Cheeses Jam co, Drink La Vie, Blossom’s Best, Cookbook Author Elizabeth Borelli
    • Book Reading and Signing, Dr. Wallace J Nichols of “Blue Mind”
  • We launched a Retail Training Program. Program participants work in the store weekly and gain customer service, communication and point of sale skills
  • Based on research and the creativity of our team, we added several new products to our line up
  • New and best selling products -
  • Some of our body products

    Gardener’s Soap (great paired with our Hand salve)

  • Chocolate Rosemary Brownie mix
  • Strawberry Lemon Pancake mix (seasonal)
  • Basil Lemon Salt (seasonal)
  • Solid Lavender Perfume
  • Healing Lip Balms
  • All Natural Pet Salve

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2014 Annual Report: Training Program

Relationships, engagement, accomplishment and positive emotion all play an integral part in well-being. A strength of our training program is our investment in the whole person, so that trainees can sustain their well being after graduation.

This is how trainees describe the effect the Training Program has had on their lives:

“Social workers, volunteers, employees, and other trainees are a great support, offering each other and me hope and guidance.”

“I’m very confident, much more than before, that my resume will get me a good job.”

“I have learned a lot about myself, added dozens of new skills, and learned to be confident in myself.”

Andrew and Chris at lecture

“I see myself as free – that’s a good thing.  I’m making enough money for room and board instead of being homeless – that’s a good thing.”

“I got a place to live that’s stable and safe.”

“I have made some new friends and started to reintegrate myself into society again.”

“I now have stable, reliable income.”


Bredette in the greenhouse

“Safety! I’m getting beyond meeting my basic survival needs, getting in touch with resources, and getting medical/dental assistance.”


“I am now able to see what a healthy, happy life looks like.”

“It has gotten me more interested in organic, healthy eating.”

“The HGP really makes me want to get more involved with the community.”

“I came out of a dark place, almost giving up.  Now my personal outlook on life is changing for the positive.”

“It is an amazing project that has helped me so much.  I look forward to everyday.”

Stacy's first wreath

“[The Project] has a great support system.  I wish more people knew about it.  I have been spreading the word.”

“Being here at HGP has given me hope for obtaining employment in the future with healthy job skills.”

“Being here has put me on a new career path.”

–Reflections from many trainees about 2014




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2014 Annual Report: Cultivating Community

2014: Our Volunteer Community Grew

This year, we partnered with 2,200 volunteers at the farm, workshop, retail store and office, with a total of nearly 20,000 hours. According to national averages, the estimated service value of our volunteers for 2014 is $405,400! We can’t emphasize enough what an important role this community plays in our daily lives at HGP.

We hosted 120 groups, including:

  • Girl Scout troops,

  • Google, and

  • numerous service learning classes, fraternities/sororities and clubs from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

  • Members from the Zen Center, Quaker Camp, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Bahá’í joined us in preparing meals and getting their hands dirty on the farm.

  • We also hosted and worked alongside students from local high schools, preschools, charter schools and Cabrillo College.

  • We worked alongside our friends from Laurel Street, a day center for adults with developmental disabilities, on a daily basis. On a weekly basis, we worked with the Bay School, a school for autistic students between the ages of three and 21.



Over the course of the year, we worked with 50 interns, from a variety of programs and universities. This segment of our community provides consistent help and presence in all areas of the project. They bring fresh ideas, keep us feeling young and provide much needed assistance to all areas of the project.



We hosted the following events and workdays at the farm:

  • Martin Luther King Day of Service

  • Earth Day

  • Lavender Harvest Work Days

  • Make a Difference Day

Service Enterprise

We became certified as a Service Enterprise, an organization that fundamentally leverages volunteers and their skills across all levels of the organization to successfully deliver on its social mission.

Research conducted by TCC Group and Deloitte demonstrates that nonprofits operating as Service Enterprises outperform peer organizations on all measures of organizational capacity thereby allowing these nonprofits to more effectively address community needs and operate at almost half the median budget. When an organization leverages volunteers and achieves an effective volunteer management model, not only do they lead and manage their organizations better, but they are also significantly more adaptable, sustainable and better resourced to do their work, and therefore able to sustainably go to scale.


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A Particular Kind of Magic

Social work team + staff, May 2015; Rosalie, third from left

Sometimes I feel like the more I learn the less I can put into words. In this case, I worry that my words will not accurately capture all that is good and true about the Homeless Garden Project - an organization that holds a very special place in my heart. So I will only say this: there is a particular type of magic built into lived experience – the moments you share with those involved
that can somehow never be conveyed to others. This type of magic is abundantly present at HGP.
As a social work intern, I am constantly amazed by the immense healing that happens when you have a place to be and be cared for without judgement. In my time here, I have seen so much good come from such a simple idea. As I work to encourage this healing, I sometimes feel drained, frustrated by my inability to rid the world of all its social problems and to make all our trainees’ struggles disappear. Other times I burst with pride and excitement when witnessing people overcome their struggles on their own. In all of these moments, the beautiful, the frustrating, the joyful, I begin to fully understand the magic of this place. You see, HGP is not just a training program. The trainees are not the only ones who’s lives are touched by the connection to the seeds and soil of the farm and the restlessly productive essential oil smell of the workshop. HGP affects the lives of all who pass through it, including myself.

I spent my first summer at HGP, before becoming a social work intern, with my hands in the soil. Now almost two years later, I am looking up at graduate school and leaving Santa Cruz, taking the time to reflect on everything I have learned. I learned all about social work – even deciding to abandon my previous plan to pursue a graduate degree in psychology (my undergraduate area of study) to pursue a masters of social work instead. I learned how to listen, how to be supportive without saying a single word, and how to use the methods of motivational interviewing and positive psychology. For myself, I learned how to rely on my peers for support, and how to ask for help.

But beyond the practical, a funny thing happens. I lose all ability to articulate my experience apart from saying “you had to be there.” Maybe in time I will look back and be better able to explain the magic of this place and its impact on me, but for now all I can say is that the Homeless Garden Project has changed the way I see the world, its living things, and myself. It, and all the people who have passed through it as I have, have forever left an imprint on my heart.
To those considering joining the ranks of the tireless, selflessly passionate people fighting to make HGP all that it can be, I ask, what are you waiting for? I may not be able to perfectly articulate everything this place has to offer, but I can say that it is worth experiencing. I hope you think so too.

–Rosalie Evans

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