THE SEEDS FOR SUCCESS
Planting, cultivating, nurturing, growing—and of course, reaping the benefits. There is a lot of commonality between the theme of gardening and the world of not-for-profits. And they all come together nicely when the not-for-profit is about gardening.
In 1994, Grassroots Gardens was very much a grassroots organization—operating on a shoestring budget with volunteer help. Over the years they became a “real organization” with the help of the Oishei Foundation, says Executive Director Melissa Fratello. “The people at Oishei really understand non-profits, at every stage. We were toddlers in terms of infrastructure, capacity, development—and it was great that we could be totally honest about the challenges we faced.”
MAKING GROWTH COUNT
Oishei helped Grassroots Gardens grow well beyond the toddler stage, building capacity, adding staff, and becoming a sustainable asset to the Western New York community. And now, with Oishei’s help again, that community is expanding to include Niagara Falls, through a merger with Greenprint Niagara.
“Oishei has really been the cornerstone as we worked through discussions, and in developing our new brand identity,” says Melissa. “They gave much more than financial support; they acted as mentors and stewards, investing their organizational capacity into ours—it has really made a difference."
WHEN A GARDEN IS MORE THAN A GARDEN
By the same token, what Grassroots Gardens WNY now offers is much more than gardening. “It’s really about collaboration,” says Melissa. “We help people learn to be advocates, to be organizers, to raise money, and to engage their community. A garden can be a nucleus of empowerment, a mechanism for healthy eating, a source of beauty and pride, a way to celebrate cultural heritage, and a vital community asset.”
All of which could also describe this no-longer-a-toddler organization.