Quick Take:

Three local nonprofits - Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, and Teen Kitchen Project - are working hard to address community health needs. And local retailers like New Leaf Community Markets are stepping up to help fund their efforts.

The work local nonprofits do isn’t always visible. Because much of it takes place behind the scenes, many of us are unaware of how positively these organizations affect our daily lives. From providing services for the homeless and meals for cancer patients to keeping our beaches and oceans clean, local nonprofits play a big role in making where we live so special. Yet funding these important community-supported organizations can be challenging even in the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic, just keeping the doors open and the lights on is often considered a win.

Fortunately, Central Coast retailers in a position to help are doing just that. By partnering with community nonprofits, retailers like New Leaf Community Markets are helping to keep these organizations going —and shining a spotlight on their important work.

Homeless Garden Project

Homeless Garden Project Director Darrie Ganzhorn.
Homeless Garden Project Director Darrie Ganzhorn. Credit: New Leaf Community Markets

Known for its pop-up gift shops selling garden-inspired and handmade gifts, Homeless Garden Project (HGP) offers those experiencing homelessness job training and meaningful work in the therapeutic setting of an organic garden. Its programs and partnerships help people acquire job training and employment, and even secure stable housing. Those programs and partnerships — funded largely by donations from the local community — have been paying off. In 2019, 100% of its program graduates found work, and 78% found a place to live.

Despite the economic hardships of COVID-19, HGP pressed on in 2020 with its plan to open a 9.5-acre farm in the City of Santa Cruz’s Pogonip greenbelt. The new farm site triples HGP’s capacity to provide job training and support services. “Businesses like New Leaf have been outstanding in helping us meet our campaign goals,” said Darrie Ganzhorn, HGP director. Since 1999, New Leaf has donated over $160,000 to the Homeless Garden Project through its customer behavior-driven Envirotokens program.

Envirotoken recipients from Aptos store opening.
Envirotoken recipients from Aptos store opening. Credit: New Leaf Community Markets

New Leaf’s Envirotokens reward customers for bringing their own re-usable bags to the store, allowing them to choose local nonprofits to support with tokens they receive for shopping with reusable bags. Since 1993, customers have shopped with reusable bags often enough to divert more than 11.2 million paper bags from garbage or recycle waste, saving an estimated 16,000 trees and generating more than $1 million in donations to local nonprofits.

HGP’s Ganzhorn points out that retailers can be important contributors in non-financial ways, too.

New Leaf employs our graduates, participates as a local employer in our job readiness workshops, supports our events with in-kind donations, and sells our products in its stores. — Darrie Ganzhorn, Executive Director of the Homeless Garden Project

Selling its products on store shelves, Ganzhorn explains, also helps raise the nonprofit’s visibility and educate people in the community about the important work HGP does.

Teen Kitchen Project

Volunteers delivering food.
Volunteers delivering food. Credit: New Leaf Community Markets

Teen Kitchen Project is another local nonprofit that has managed to do more than just survive in 2020 thanks to support from local retailers. Founded in 2012, Teen Kitchen Project teaches kids valuable team building and work skills while preparing and delivering healthy, delicious food to people in the community who are suffering from critical illnesses. Last year, Teen Kitchen Project was able to serve more meals to people in need than ever before.

Teen Kitchen Project’s Director, Angela Farley, credits business partnerships and giving programs like New Leaf’s Bloom (which donates 1% of profits from its New Leaf Bloom wellness product line to Teen Kitchen Project and Life Lab Children’s Garden) with being able to substantially increase its capacity at a time when its services are needed most. “We’re so grateful for New Leaf’s shared vision to build healthier communities through food,” says Farley. “Our incredible community made it possible to deliver 69,574 meals in 2020, an increase of 72% over 2019.”

Save Our Shores

Cement Ship
Credit: Via New Leaf

Well known for organizing beach cleanups and advocating for ocean health, Save Our Shores actively works with local businesses as sponsors to help support its mission.

Save Our Shores relies on monthly checks received through giving programs like New Leaf’s Envirotokens to fund its own education outreach programs. “Envirotokens has allowed us to scale up our beach, river, and slough cleanups and expand our efforts to educate people on the importance of keeping our shores clean and eliminating litter, especially plastic,” explains Katherine O’Dea, Executive Director.

In 2020, the organization hosted its first-ever socially distanced coastal cleanup. During the course of one month, volunteers removed more than 28,7000 items of debris from 160 miles of beaches, parks and neighborhoods in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. Sponsors helped spread the word and encourage participation via social media.

It’s nice to see that our community cares enough to protect our beloved Monterey Bay even when a global pandemic prevents us from gathering in person. — Katherine O’Dea, Executive Director of Save Our Shores

The Coronavirus pandemic has not only mandated a restructuring in the way Save Our Shores conducts beach cleanups, but also in the way that they deliver valuable marine science educational content to local K-12 students. Since March 2020, Save Our Shores has worked with partner organizations and local schools to continue engaging our students in ocean-themed science lessons that help them to understand the ecosystems of Monterey Bay and empowers them to aid in its protection. These new distance learning lessons intertwine interactive and fun digital content with hands-on activities and projects that students can complete at home to connect with their local environment

A responsibility to give

New Leaf's newest store in Aptos, California.
New Leaf’s newest store in Aptos, California. Credit: New Leaf Community Markets

For its part, New Leaf sees its giving programs as more than altruistic promotions that happen a few times a year. As a Certified B Corporation — and California’s first certified B Corp grocer — New Leaf builds giving directly into its business model. “We see supporting the local community through our business practices as a responsibility we have to our customers and our employees,” says Andrew King, New Leaf’s Operations Director. It’s a responsibility King hopes to see more businesses adopt. “People want to feel good about where they shop,” he notes. “They want to know that their grocery store is doing its part to support the people who live here.”

Written by New Leaf Community Markets staff, with input from community organizations.

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...